René Girard

On Violence and Religion

Last week I posted the five programmes in which I introduced Ideas listeners to the thought of René Girard in 2,000.   Since 1990 an international organization called the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) has existed to explore, criticize  and further develop Girard's "mimetic theory."  This organization publishes a journal called Contagion and meets for an annual congress  somewhere in Europe or North America.  In 2006 COV&R met for the first time in Canada at St. Paul University in Ottawa.  The host was Vern Redekop, a professor at St. Paul, and one of the founding members of COV&R.   My high regard for Girard's work made this an auspicious occasion for me, and I wanted to honour it on Ideas.  My two-hour report on the meeting was broadcast later that year.  There is, inevitably, some overlap with the earlier series.  René Girard was at the conference, and I interviewed him again, of course.  But, in these programmes, much more attention is given to his collaborators and students and to their interpretation and use of Girard's work.   Included are Sandor Goodhart, Wolfgang Palaver, Gil Baillie, Richard McGuigan, Marie Claude Sicard, Diana Culbertson, Petra Steinmar-Pösel, Rebecca Adams and Vern Redekop...

The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion

Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbarán

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says that he is revealing "things hidden from the foundation of the world."  In the same gospel he accuses "the teachers of the law" of having taken away "the key to knowledge."  René Girard takes these statements to be precisely true: the New Testament, in his view, does provide the key to knowledge by revealing both the violent origins of all human societies and the role sacrificial religion has played in inoculating these societies against this violence.  It's a theory of astonishing power and scope, and, when I first encountered it, it helped me to see the Christianity in which I had been raised in an entirely new light: no longer as a more or less doubtful body of "beliefs" but instead as a breakthrough in understanding.  In the fall of the year 2,000 I had the pleasure of spending several days with René Girard, and his wife Martha, recording interviews with René at their home on the campus of Stanford University in California.  The five shows that resulted were broadcast on Ideas early in 2001.  Several of Girard's friends and collaborators are also featured, including James Alison, Paul Dumouchel, Robert Hamerton-Kelly and Gil Baillie