The mimetic creation of the Imaginary

Christoph Wulf


Young children learn to make sense of the world through mimetic processes. These processes are focused to begin with on their parents, brothers and sisters and people they know well. Young children want to become like these persons. They are driven by the desire to become like them, which will mean that they belong and are part of them and their world. Young children, and indeed humans in general are social beings. They, more than all non-human primates, are social beings who cannot survive without the Other. In mimetic processes the outside world becomes the inner world and the inner world becomes the outside world. The imaginary is developed and the imaginary develops ways of relating to the outside world. In a mimetic loop, this in turn affects the inner world of the imaginary. These processes are sensory and governed by desire. All the senses are involved which means that the imaginary has multiple layers. Since there is an intermingling of images, emotions and language, these processes are rooted in the body and at the same time transcend the body as they become part of the imaginary. Human beings create images of themselves in all cultures and historical periods. They need these images to understand themselves and their relationship to other human beings and to develop social relations and communities. Images of the human being are designs and projections of the human being and his or her relationship to other people and to the world. They are formed to visualize representations of individuals or aspects of them. They arise when we communicate about ourselves. They support us to live with diversities and to develop similarities and feelings of belonging with other people. They are the result of complex anthropological processes, in which social and cultural power structures play an important role.


Imaginary; Sustenaibility; Mimetic processes; Image

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