PERSPECTIVES ON ICONOCLASM
On the ideologies that have driven the breaking of images
What is it about images and symbols that affect us so deeply that we feel compelled to break them? What ideologies have driven the breaking of images throughout history, and have these motives changed over time?
In the 1960s, the BBC documentary series “Civilisation” featured Kenneth Clark famously stating, while standing in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral, “What is civilisation? I don’t know…but I think I can recognise it when I see it.” In the 2018 remake of the series, Simon Schama takes a different approach, claiming that while he may not know exactly what a civilisation is, he knows when he sees it being destroyed, as imagery of the destruction Palmyra is shown.
Throughout history, almost every civilisation has experienced the destruction of symbols, with image struggles stretching even further back than to ancient Aknathens’ attempts to erase the god Amun. The motives behind this phenomenon have varied, but with recent surges of activity from religious, political, and military extremists, the destruction of images has become increasingly relevant on a global scale.
The question remains, what is it about images and symbols that affect us so deeply that we feel compelled to break them? What ideologies have driven the breaking of images throughout history, and have these motives changed over time?
PhD Researcher, Institut für Wissensgeschichte des Altertums, Freie Universität Berlin
PhD, Senior Lecturer in Byzantine History, University of Birmingham
Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, University of Oxford
Peter Jackson Rova
Professor of History of Religions, Stockholm University
PhD Hebrew Bible, Uppsala University
Independent Writer and Researcher, PhD Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge
Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Research Professor in English, Harvard University
Marie Kawthar Daouda
PhD Literature, Sorbonne, Author and lecturer, University of Oxford
Emeritus Professor of Politics, Oxford University
PhD Division of History of Ideas and Sciences, Lund University
Professor of Slavic Languages, Stockholm University
Journalist, Author and Documentary Producer
Editor in chief, Editorial Board, Göteborgs-Posten
Professor Emeritus of History of Ideas, Lund University