Video Intro to René Girard’s Mimetic Theory

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I compiled the following documentary film on the origin of cultures, in three parts, introducing some major topics of mimetic theory and René Girard’s thinking. Transcription of the videos (in English & Dutch) is available below, beneath PART III.

PART I of the film explores the fundamental role of mimesis (imitation) in human development on several levels (biological, psychological, sociological, cultural). René Girard’s originality lies in his  introduction of a connection between this old philosophical concept and human desire. He speaks of a certain mimetic desire and ascribes to it a vital role in our social interaction. It explains our often competitive and envious tendencies. More specifically, Girard considers mimetic desire as the source for a type of conflict that is foundational to the way human culture originates and develops. In his view the primal cultural institutions are religious. Following a sociologist like Émile Durkheim, Girard first considers religion as a means to organize our social fabric, and to manage violence within communities.

The more specific question the first part of this documentary tries to answer is the following: where do sacrifices, as rituals belonging to the first signs of human culture, originally come from? How can they be explained?

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PART II starts off with a summary and then further insists on the fundamental role of the so-called scapegoat mechanism in the origin of religious and cultural phenomena.

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PART III explores the world of mythology and human storytelling in the light of Girard’s theory on certain types of culture founding conflicts and scapegoat mechanisms. Girard comes to surprising conclusions regarding storytelling in Judeo-Christian Scripture.

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CLICK HERE FOR FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION (PDF)

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2 comments

  1. Betsy Hansbrough · February 11, 2011

    Eric, this is simply wonderful. I teach a high school class on mimetic theory and would love to assign these video’s if it is OK with you!! My class is about theology and film and we determine the mimetic components of film and how the movies we see are part of our culture, our mythology, and even our religion.

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    • erik buys · February 11, 2011

      I’m happy to help you and your class. Feel free to use the videos any way you want – I made them for that purpose!! It must be great having a class about theology and film – wish I could do something like that at the high school where I’m teaching. Keep in touch!

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