States of Imitation: Mimetic governmentality and colonial rule

How to understand imitation as inherent to colonial power relations and even to the practices of colonial administration? By approaching mimesis and imitation as a generative, rather than only subversive, aspect of colonial government and the colonial state, researchers Ricardo Roque (ICS-UL) and Patrice Ladwig (MPI-MMG) joined a group of researchers in an edited special issue of Social Analysis,   entitled States of Imitation: Mimetic Governmentality and Colonial Rule  , and recently published (vol. 62, n. 2, 2018).

This publication is an output of  DAAD and CRUP joint programme that brought together researchers from MPI-Social Anthropology and ICS-ULisboa; it is also an output of the project  Colonial Mimesis in Lusophone Asia and Africa funded by FCT and hosted by the EMPIRES Research Group.

The introductory essay to this special issue is accessible for reading on the Social Analysis website:

Patrice Ladwig and Ricardo Roque,Introduction: Mimetic Governmentality, Colonialism, and the State”, Social Analysis, 62: 2 (2018), 1-27.

Abstract: Engaging critically with literature on mimesis, colonialism, and the state in anthropology and history, this introduction argues for an approach to mimesis and imitation as constitutive of the state and its forms of rule and governmentality in the context of late European colonialism. It explores how the colonial state attempted to administer, control, and integrate its indigenous subjects through mimetic policies of governance, while examining how indigenous polities adopted imitative practices in order to establish reciprocal ties with, or to resist the presence of, the colonial state. In introducing this special issue, three main themes will be addressed: mimesis as a strategic policy of colonial government, as an object of colonial regulation, and, finally, as a creative indigenous appropriation of external forms of state power.

Photo credits: “Caicoli 1973” . Source: