Memory, Mimesis and the Circulation of Emotions in Rituals

23 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2021

Date Written: 2012


In this article, I will demonstrate how mimetic and performative processes play a central role in the creation and circulation of emotions in rituals. Following the clarification of some concepts which are important for my arguments, I will explain using the example of Michael Jackson’s funeral how rituals create emotions in mimetic and performative processes, which due to their uniqueness and intensity are remembered by the participants. In this example, I will illustrate that rituals are very important for the creation and circulation of emotions. The same also applies to religious rituals, ceremonies and celebrations, as well as transitional and everyday rituals, which give order and purpose to people’s lives. Many of the emotions created during daily rituals and the effects of rituals do not enter our consciousness; in fact, they become a part of our memory but are not available to be remembered. Nevertheless they are of central importance for the development of an individual and collective identity because they create competencies which we have, but whose origin in ritualistic learning processes we have forgotten about.

Keywords: mimesis, performativity, rituals, funeral, Michael Jackson, emotions

Suggested Citation

Wulf, Christoph, Memory, Mimesis and the Circulation of Emotions in Rituals (2012). Available at SSRN: or

Christoph Wulf (Contact Author)

Free University of Berlin ( email )

Habelschwerdter Allee 45
Berlin, Berlin 14195


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