Imitatio Projects

Imitatio, a project of the Thiel Foundation, supports the development and discussion of René Girard's "mimetic theory" of human behavior and culture.  Mimetic theory is a way to think about how profoundly imitative people are -- from their deepest desires to superficial fashions.  Mimetic theory brings together insights from across disciplinary boundaries, and Imitatio brings together researchers, students, and the wider public to learn from and to further Girard's insights.

Key projects:

TRANSLATIONS: Imitatio supports the translation of key works in mimetic theory so that more readers have access for themselves:

René Girard's correspondence with Raymund Schwager, celebrated Jesuit theologian of scapegoating, has been transcribed, edited, annotated, translated and published by a team at the University of Innsbruck. An English version of the correspondence, which is held by the Raymund Schwager Archive, is due for publication in 2016.

More than two dozen titles by René Girard and scholars of mimetic theory have been newly translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil in publisher É Realizações' Biblioteca René Girard.

Imitatio has also supported translations published by Michigan State University Press, MIT Press, Editions Flammarion, and many others. Recent and forthcoming titles include A Short Treatise on the Metaphysics of Tsunamis (MSU Press, 2015) by philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy and The Mimetic Brain (MSU Press, 2016) by psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian. 

PUBLICATIONS: Imitatio supports the publication of new work in mimetic theory:

Resurrection from the Underground (MSU Press, 2012) brings René Girard's classic study of Dostoevsky back into print. Mimesis and Science (MSU Press, 2011) investigates the biology of imitation. Find a full catalog of available titles here.

ARCHIVES: Imitatio supports the preservation and organization of René Girard's writings in an archive at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

RESEARCH: Imitatio supports research that aims to answer open questions in mimetic theory and connect findings to wider debates: 

Can we better understand economic behavior by starting from imitative dynamics rather than isolated individuals like those supposed by classical theory? Research by André Orléan brilliantly applying a mimetic approach to economics was published in 2011 as L'empire de la valeur by Le Seuil; MIT Press published an English translation in 2014 under the title The Empire of Value: A New Foundation for Economics.

How does the study of Hindu sacrifice change mimetic theory, which was originally developed from Judeo-Christian sources and classical anthropology? Research by Brian Collins was published in 2013 by MSU Press.

PLATFORMS: Imitatio supports organizations that bring people together to discuss mimetic theory.  Among the many groups around the world helping to continue the conversation:

Association Recherches Mimétiques, Paris
Australian Girard Seminar, Sydney
Dutch Girard Society, Amsterdam

EDUCATION: Imitatio supports educational experiments to test out ways of teaching mimetic theory and to make it easier for young writers and researchers to get started in this rich field. We record and disseminate effective approaches, and we bring young scholars together to build relationships and compare ideas.

The Summer School in Mimetic Theory, an intensive program for graduate students, was most recently held in Brazil in 2015. 

SUMMARY: In person at meetings, lectures, and discussions; online at the Imitatio web site; and in print via published articles, new books, and freshly translated works; around the world Imitatio supports research to deepen mimetic theory and public discussion to spread its insights to wider audiences.