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Reconsidering mimesis : freedom and acquiescence in the Anthropocene.

Johnson, Elizabeth R. (2016) 'Reconsidering mimesis : freedom and acquiescence in the Anthropocene.', South Atlantic quarterly., 115 (2). pp. 267-289.


In 1993 Michael Taussig's Mimesis and Alterity revitalized the power of the mimetic faculty to craft a vision of nature that was neither the alienated subject of modern science nor the passively malleable medium of late twentieth-century social constructivism. Taussig drew explicitly on a tradition of earlier twentieth-century scholarship—Walter Benjamin, Roger Caillois, and Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno—that located in the mimetic faculty a way out of a techno-fetishized social milieu. This essay explores how mimesis has once again been endowed with revolutionary potential in the contemporary moment through the growing field of biomimicry. I show how mimesis promises a way toward a future free from human hubris and ecological catastrophe—and a way out of the conditions that have created the Anthropocene. I explore how this works in biomimetics, with a detailed look at one of the most celebrated examples of the biomimetic paradigm: the gecko's foot. But, I ultimately suggest that what has been so seductive about mimesis throughout history is that it offers a “way out” of political confrontation. In doing so, I argue mimesis too easily serves as a double mirror—rather than transform production, nonhuman life at the level of biology becomes a force for production.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2016 by Duke University Press
Date accepted:16 November 2015
Date deposited:10 October 2017
Date of first online publication:15 April 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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