Cultural Techniques of Mirroring from Lecanomancy to Lacan

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Drawing on archaeological and historical evidence about the materials, production techniques, and ritualized use of mirrors in ancient and modern contexts, this paper demonstrates that potentials for self-recognition are subject to the material attributes of mirrors themselves. I argue that any theory of the self in communication theory must foreground mediated techniques of self-recognition if it wishes to understand the concepts of identity and identification in their cultural and historical specificity. I address mirrors from ancient Egypt, Mesoamerica, and Greece, biblical stories, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and modern psychological theory. In all cases, I find that a clear link can be made between the reigning technical standard for mirror production and dominant assumptions about the nature of the self and its cosmological or metaphysical roles. In short, cultural standards for self-identification are circumscribed and preceded by technical standards of material production.