Metamorphoses of Mimesis: Plasticity, Subjectivity and Transformation with Catherine Malabou

February 23, 2023 - February 24, 2023
Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven

Leuven and online

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The Gendered Mimesis project is pleased to announce a two-day international conference on the subject of the “Metamorphoses of Mimesis” in the work of contemporary French philosopher Catherine Malabou.

Malabou is one of the most influential voices in contemporary continental philosophy whose work resonates productively with recent re-turns of attention to a mimetic, plastic, and metamorphic conception of homo mimeticus ( In her interdisciplinary work, Malabou has explored the concept of plasticity in a variety of fields, from psychoanalysis to contemporary neuroscience and epigenetics, ontology and metaphysics, and political and feminist philosophy. These perspectives are internal to a new theory of imitation that challenges forms of essentialism, including those of sex and gender. Throughout her work, Malabou can be seen to define subjectivity in mimetic terms for plasticity involves individual and collective openness to all kinds of contagious influences, affective impressions, and simulations of intelligence while also allowing for resistance to contemporary mimetic pathologies.

With her concepts of plasticity, epigenetics, and metamorphoses of intelligence, Malabou furthers recent developments in new mimetic studies. She does not restrict mimesis to the traditional realistic model of representation/bad copy. Instead, she accounts for the affective, gendered, political, ontological, performative, and metamorphic powers of homo mimeticus. She also opposes any simple notion of the autonomous anti-mimetic subject and proposes instead to rethink the complex and contradictory forms of mimetic metamorphoses in the twenty-first century. For Malabou, this means thinking subjectivity across biology, philosophy, and aesthetics in view of exploring the ethical, gendered, ontological, and political transformations at play in what we call, the plasticity of mimesis.

The aim of this conference is to think and rethink this new conception of mimesis through a plurality of plastic metamorphoses and to explore the feminist, anarchic, and transformative potential of mimetic studies in dialogue with Malabou, who will participate in this symposium.

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