This panel investigates practices and politics of imitation, focussing on its role in exploring different worlds, the contestations and ambiguities of imitation, its role in cultural transmission and transformation and its significance in anthropological and archaeological methods.
This panel aims to explore the practices and politics of imitation and to consider the role that imitation plays in the ways that people explore both their own world and other worlds. Imitation is an activity through which people investigate not only their direct surroundings, embodying the actions of others, but it provides a means through which connections are made with other worlds, such as the past or the non-human. Through re-enactment and reproduction, such worlds can be remembered, remade or simply learnt about, and we invite contributions that explore the processes through which this has happened, both now and in the past. For example, what difference does it make if a reproduction is hand-crafted or mass-produced or if it is fashioned from 'traditional' materials? Imitation also raises political questions of authenticity and appropriateness, and we invite papers that explore its contestations and ambiguities. When does imitation become flattery and when is it mockery? What is the role of imitation in play and satire? Because imitation often implies emulation, it plays (or is assumed to play) a role in cultural transmission and transformation, both in contemporary societies and historically. How, then, is imitation implicated in the diffusion of materials, forms and practices? In what ways is culture imitative? How does imitation relate to creativity, originality and individuality? Finally, we also encourage contributions reflecting on imitation in anthropological and archaeological methodology. For example, participant observation implies learning actions and gestures and reproducing them, and imitation underpins archaeological practices of reconstruction.