Mimetic Capital and the Usurpation of New Worlds. The European Practice of Representation around 1600
During the encounter of cultures, Europeans established not only a new flow of possessions, but also new modes of representation to appropriate other worlds. To analyze this process of image-making Stephen Greenblatt has developed the idea of „mimetic capital,“ thus emphasizing the accumulation and circulation of texts and images as both real and cultural capital in the context of an emerging world economy. This article discusses the analytical potential generated by the interaction of two notions: „mimesis“ and „capital.“ The analysis focuses on two genre types exemplary for the second phase of colonization around 1600: collections of travel reports especially the America series of the de Bry publishers, and Dutch maps of the world. The impact of the concept of „mimetic capital“ shows the double effect of the European practice of representation: „Mimesis“ centers on the dissemination of meaning thus ensuring the open character of the process of colonial representation, whereas „capital“ and the processes of formation and accumulation strengthen the homogenization and stereotypization of meaning. Both developments endorse both the flexibility and rigidity of the European appropriation of the world.