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Pathologies of imitation 
Nicholas Long (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Jacob Copeman (University of Santiago de Compostela)
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Friday 26 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

This panel asks how, why and to what effect certain forms of imitation come to be construed and experienced as pathological in diverse contemporary settings.

Long Abstract:

Imitation is fundamental to human social life, underpinning everything from entrainment in cultural practices to interactional rapport and the emulation of ethical exemplars. Yet at times, the urge to imitate is considered medically and/or morally pathological: when echopraxia (‘compulsive imitation’) is flagged as a medical symptom; in anxieties around ‘copycat’ crimes and suicides, and in moral panics around plagiarism, online impersonation, and ‘Westoxification’ – to name but a few. Taking such ‘pathologies of imitation’ as a starting point, this panel seeks to develop existing anthropological literatures on mimesis and related phenomena by highlighting the affective and moral complexities of being an imitative subject.

We invite papers that examine how, why, and to what effect certain forms of imitation are construed and experienced as pathological in diverse contemporary settings. Whose interests are best served by imitation’s pathologisation – and is this kind of political analysis sufficient for understanding the distressing or conflicted ways that people sometimes experience their own imitative urges and practices? How and why do ethical traditions accord imitations different degrees of moral valence? Is that changing as new technologies transform the labour involved in imitation? What causal logics are used to account for, resolve, and prevent ‘inappropriate imitation’, to what social worlds do they give rise, and how seriously should anthropologists take them? Indeed, what can anthropology ‘do’ to support those suffering in their relationships to imitation – and which aspects of the anthropological canon might a study of imitation’s pathologies suggest need to be ‘undone’?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 26 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Friday 26 July, 2024, -