SCAPEGOATS, VIOLENCE, AND MIMETIC THEORY
21st INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL IN CULTURAL STUDIES
University of Jyväskylä, Finland, June 4−6, 2018
Society for Cultural Studies in Finland and the Research Centre for Contemporary Culture
In the present times, the media landscape is loaded with representations of violence in which a group attacks another group or an individual. Also, venomous and inculpatory ways of speaking are common especially in social media such as Twitter. Understanding violence in a broad sense, the increase of hate speech and the strong presence of violence in the media as well as popular culture challenge interpretations of the decrease of violence in the present times. Rather, it could be proposed that the ways of violence have multiplied as it nowadays entails also various forms of verbal, indirect or latent as well as mediated forms of violence. Occasionally violence also seeps into practices that at first glance seem to be fighting against it.
Although the phenomena described above vary from direct violence to aggressive ways of commenting on it, a common factor can be pointed, i.e. scapegoat mechanism. Scapegoat mechanism occurs when a community or a group of people seeks release of its violent tensions by projecting them into a victim chosen from the margins of the community that the group believes to be the origin of its anguish. However, being innocent of the actual cause of the group’s hostile feelings, the victim is a surrogate victim i.e. a scapegoat. René Girard’s mimetic theory serves as a frame for studying scapegoat mechanism. According to Girard, violence touches everybody as it is the side effect of universally operating mimetic desire which leads to mimetic rivalry and violent tensions that seek their release through scapegoat mechanism, as well as sacrificial rituals, its mimetic siblings. As a tool for the regulation of violence, scapegoat mechanism is of course paradoxical as it operates through violence thus producing violence at the same time as it aims at preventing its escalation.
In the 21st summer school of cultural studies the approach to the topic is multidisciplinary. The research may focus for example on a media text, online discussion, television series, or a literary work. Methodologically, various analytic tools may be applied such as discourse analysis, ethnography, narratology, and semiotics. Especially pivotal in Girard’s theory in this context are the questions connected to scapegoats and violence but perspectives focusing more generally on mimetic desire, violence, crisis, sacrifice, or religion are welcome as well. The topics to be explored include: scapegoats and media, scapegoats and politics, religion and scapegoats, mimesis of violence, mimetic desire and violence, gender and scapegoat mechanisms, and scapegoats and literature/art. Also, the core questions can be approached from other theoretical perspectives such as in the contexts of the work of Marcel Mauss, Maurice Halbwach, or Georges Bataille. Like Girard’s, their thinking can be traced back to the legacy of Émile Durkheim.
The summer school addresses the questions of scapegoats, violence, and mimetic theory through lectures and seminar presentations based on the latest research. Acknowledged experts serve as teachers, and they will deliver open lectures on the topic, and provide commentary on and feedback to the student papers presented. The Summer School is a three-day intensive period of supervising doctoral candidates and discussing research projects in a multidisciplinary group, within the joint framework of cultural studies in a broad sense of the term.
All papers will be commented upon and discussed by the distinguished summer school teachers:
Tiina Arppe is adjunct professor in Sociology specialized in French social theory. In her scientific publications, she has studied problematics related to the sacred, community, and affect in the work of Rousseau, Durkheim, Bataille, Baudrillard, and Girard. Her major works include Pyhän jäännökset (Tutkijaliitto 1992), Affectivity and the Social Bond (Ashgate 2014), and Uskonto ja väkivalta. Durkheimin perilliset (2016). Currently, in a project funded by Kone Foundation, Arppe looks into the connections of economy and death in French social theory. Arppe has also translated French theory classics as well as for example Thorsten Veblen’s The Leisure Class into Finnish.
Hanna Mäkelä is University Lecturer of Comparative Literature (fixed term) at the University of Helsinki where she took her PhD, which was co-supervised at the Justus Liebig University Giessen, in 2014. Her doctoral thesis, Narrated Selves and Others: A Study of Mimetic Desire in Five Contemporary British and American Novels, combines René Girard’s philosophical anthropology with the field of narratology in order to demonstrate how Girard’s mimetic theory can be employed as a narrative poetics of its own in the context of more mainstream literary studies.
Mäkelä is currently working on a postdoctoral monograph on the subject of inner change in narrative film. She has published the following peer-reviewed articles: “Horizontal Rivalry, Vertical Transcendence: Identity and Idolatry in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History” (The Poetics of Transcendence, Rodopi / Brill, 2015), “Player in the Dark: Mourning the Loss of the Moral Foundation of Art in Woody Allen’s Match Point” (Turning Points. Concepts and Narratives of Change in Literature and Other Media, de Gruyter, 2012) and “Imitators and Observers: Mimetic and Elegiac Character Relationships in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved” (Genre and Interpretation, 2010, the University of Helsinki Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies / The Finnish Graduate School of Literary Studies).
HOW TO APPLY
Please send your application by Monday, March 5, 2018 to
Or by post to
40014 Jyväskylän yliopisto
Society for Cultural Studies in Finland
P.O. Box 35
FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä
Your application should include
- An abstract of 500 words, based on the paper you will be presenting.
- A short presentation of yourself and your research topic with its theoretical orientation, methods, and materials.
The applicants will be notified of the decision by Friday, March 16.
Deadline for papers is Monday, May 21. Length of the papers is 10–15 pages. More information on them will be sent out later.
There is a participation fee of 100 euros per person. Fee covers coffee/tea and snacks during the seminar.
For more information e-mail minna.m.nerg[at]jyu.fi (or eeva.rohas[a]jyu.fi), phone +358 (0)50 599 8842, or visit http://kultut.fi.