Violence and the Mimetic Unconscious, Volume 2
The Affective Hypothesis
Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2023-10-01
Representations of violence have subliminal contagious effects, but what kind of unconscious captures this imperceptible affective dynamic in the digital age? In volume two of a Janus-faced diagnostic of the cathartic and contagious effects of (new) media violence, Nidesh Lawtoo traces a genealogy of a long-neglected, embodied, relational, and highly mimetic unconscious that, well before the discovery of mirror neurons, posited mirroring reactions as a via regia to a phantom ego. Rather than being the product of a solipsistic discovery, the unconscious turns out to have haunted philosophers, psychologists, and artists for a long time. This book proposes a genealogy of untimely philosophical physicians that goes from Plato to Nietzsche, Bernheim to Féré, Freud to Bataille, Arendt to Girard, affect theory to the neurosciences. In their company, Lawtoo promotes the transdisciplinary field of mimetic studies by reevaluating the unconscious actions and reactions of homo mimeticus. As a new theory of mimesis emerges, Violence and the Mimetic Unconscious offers a searching diagnosis as to why the pathos of (new) media violence—from film to video games, police murders to the storming of the U.S Capitol—continues to cast a material shadow on the present and future.
In this impressive sequel on violence and the unconscious, Nidesh Lawtoo accounts for the horrorism at play in new forms of contemporary media violence that generate contagious pathologies in the digital age. Sensitive to the pathos of vulnerable subjects in terms of age, gender, race, and education, this remarkable study reloads Plato’s ancient question on the influence of art for mimetic studies from Nietzsche to Arendt, affect theory to the neurosciences, Greek tragedy to video games to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
—Adriana Cavarero, honorary professor of political philosophy, University of Verona, and author of Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence
To grasp the speed, complexity, and contagiousness of violence today, as it crosses daily experience, the new media, neofascist movements, and circles back again, Lawtoo finds it imperative to supplant the Freudian unconscious with a mimetic unconscious that is at once collective, differentiated, porous, and suggestible. The result is an innovative, courageous, and powerful study that is indispensable today.
—William E. Connolly, author of Resounding Events: Adventures of an Academic from the Working Class
In this latest installment of his long-standing inquiry into the “will to mime” that drives humans at an unconscious level, Lawtoo moves mimetic theory into the present, in order to confront what he calls the “hypermimetic crises” associated with contemporary media. Moving from the ancients and Nietzsche to pop culture and the most up-to-date scientific work on the operation of mirror neurons in the human brain, this fascinating book suggests that maybe Plato was right, after all, and representations of violence—fictional or real—pose a threat of '"mimetic contamination," of an irrationally compelled imitation of the represented acts.
—Henry Staten, professor in the humanities at University of Washington, and the author of Techne Theory: A New Language for Art