Thérèse Onderdenwijngaard

Coordinator of the Summer School 2012 is Thérèse Onderdenwijngaard (VU University Amsterdam). Since 2004 she has been secretary of the Dutch Girard Society, and in 2007 she was the main organizer of the COV&R Conference in The Netherlands 'Vulnerability and Tolerance'. In 2007 she joined the COV&R Board and in 2008 the Imitatio Education Committee. She studied Cultural Psychology, did Anthropological research in Sri Lanka, and is currently working as a lecturer at the Department of Organizational Sciences at the VU University Amsterdam.

Summer School Mimetic Theory
I feel privileged to have the opportunity to organize the second Summer School Mimetic Theory. The first Summer School in 2010 was a great success with students referring to it as the best intellectual experience they ever had. It showed that there clearly is a need among Master and PhD students to deepen their knowledge of Mimetic Theory, to get in touch with senior scholars and to share their interest with peers.

The idea of setting up a Summer School Mimetic Theory came up in 2007, when I was co-organizing the COV&R Conference. The relative small number of students among the participants was a matter of concern I could not at that moment address. Moreover, the 2007 COV&R Conference was the first one not attended by René and Martha Girard. At that moment I very strongly felt that it is on the shoulders of René Girard's students to pass on his legacy. Two years later I was asked by Imitatio's Lindy Fishburne to go ahead and organize the first Summer School in the Netherlands.

International School for Philosophy
Together with Michael Elias, former president of the Dutch Girard Society, I chose a very special location for this first Summer School: the International School for Philosophy. This institution was founded a hundred years ago, just before the beginning of World War I, as a centre for reflection on life and societal issues. Interestingly, the initiative for this School was prompted by what the founders thought was missing at the universities of the time: an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to address the problems of the time. Apparently, I would say, not much has changed in our longing for truth and in our complaint about the limited success to have this longing satisfied at universities.

In its rich history the School has hosted renowned scholars like Martin Heidegger, Albert Schweitzer, Paul Tillich, Rabindranath Tagore, Martin Buber, Charlotte Bühler, Jean Piaget, Carl Jung and recently Peter Sloterdijk. I think a Summer School Mimetic Theory neatly fits into this history.

Favourite work
My encounter with Girard’s work was not a matter of an immediate flash of insight or something like that. On the contrary for a long time I have been very reluctant to really go into the stuff. I started reading The Scapegoat in Dutch translation on the recommendation of a friend. I was preparing my fieldwork for my research on disappearances in Sri Lanka during the late eighties. I remember reading the first chapter and being overwhelmed by its allusion to the crisis. It was all too familiar for me; a Tamil human rights activist and university teacher - she was killed in September 1989 - had used the same wording to describe the collapse of Tamil society. Crisis, however, was not the theme of 'The Scapegoat'. Because of its focus on crisis and modern violence Battling to the End is my favourite book.