Production of Body Knowledge in Mimetic Processes

Christoph Wulf


To a great extent, cultural learning is mimetic learning, which is at the center of many processes of education, self-education, and human development. It is directed towards other people, social communities and cultural heritages and ensures that they are kept alive. Mimetic learning is a sensory, body-based form of learning in which images, schemas and movements needed to perform actions are learned. This embodiment is responsible for the lasting effects that play an important role in all social and cultural fields. A mimetic process creates both similarities and differences to the situations or persons to which or whom they relate. By participating in the living practices of other people, humans expand their own life-worlds and create for themselves new ways of experiencing and acting. Receptivity and activity overlap. In all areas of human existence rituals and gestures are important for the mimetic development of body knowledge. Embodied knowledge is indispensable in religion, politics, economy, science, families, and education. It helps us to deal with difference and alterity and to create a sense of community and social relationships (Wulf 2016). It also enables us to assign meaning and structure to human relations. Ritual knowledge facilitates both continuity and change, as well as experiences of transition and transcendence.


body knowledge; mimesis; violence; mimetic learning; practical knowledge

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