They Call It Mimesis

One of my favorite parts of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno‘s account of German anti-Semitism is their emphasis upon the the role of mimesis, or imitation, in racism. The Nazis did not want to destroy Jewish identity as much as take it over, they argued in their masterwork, The Dialectic of Enlighenment.

The strength of Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument does not just lie in the correctness of their analysis. It is also present in its applicability to other instances of racism, apart from that which discriminates against Jews. Take this Northern League poster here in Milan as but one example.

Warning Italians that they risk becoming the equivalent of Native Americans confined to future reservations, this poster encourages voters to fear the demographic threat of foreign immigration. That many of these immigrants are actually indigenous Americans, from Latin America, is it’s own mimetic moment.

In the first installment of Everywhere But There, a new column I’ve begun writing for Zeek, I discuss tensions over race in Italy, from the vantage point of the Arab-Israeli conflict.