Masterclass Birgit Meyer

Religions and the Image Question

Date: 20 – 27 May 2019

Deadline for applications: 1 March 2019

Religion arguably involves an awareness of a professed unseen that is taken to be existent and yet requires special forms to become manifest to common human sensation. While images are particularly powerful media to achieve this manifestation because they ‘promise’ to evoke the represented and render it present, their use for imagining and representing the unseen may be heavily contested, and even dismissed as idolatry. The value and use of images is authorized through religious sensational regimes. These regimes are not only expressed via doctrines, beliefs and aesthetics, but are also incorporated in the habitus of religious practitioners. In the Abrahamic spectrum, in particular, the legitimacy of using images to represent the unseen – the image question – has fuelled debates and contestations within and between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as with regard to ‘pagan’ others. And in current religiously and culturally plural modern societies, in which religious and secular sensitivities and values co-exist and often clash, practices of visual representation and image use have become a major bone of contention. This challenges an idea of modernity as simply entailing the decline of religion, and raises questions about the complex and complicated relation between religion, art and visual culture in current plural societies.
This masterclass will address negotiations and contestations of the legitimacy of using images within religious traditions and dominant secular politics of representation. One, calling upon insights from art history and visual culture studies, we will problematize the textual bias in the study of religion as well as lingering ideas about the Bilderverbot that still inform modern philosophy and social-cultural sciences. Second, we will pay close attention to the negotiations of images and visual representations as (un)suitable media to convey the presence of the unseen within the Abrahamic traditions. Particular attention will be paid to Catholicism, with Rome being the venue par excellence to study interfaces between religion and art in concrete settings. Third, we will focus on conflicts and tensions with regard to a presumed illicit use of images, as in charges of idolatry and blasphemy. The overall aim of the masterclass is to gain a deeper understanding of past and present attitudes towards images in Christianity – and to some extent Judaism and Islam – and to develop competence in analysing how the image question plays out on multiple levels in current modern societies and in the past. We will work through grounded case studies, which also involve various site visits to museums and churches with religious art in Rome.

Dr. Annalisa Butticci (UU), Prof. dr. Birgit Meyer (UU, convenor), Prof. dr. David Morgan (Duke University), Dr. Pooyan Tamimi Arab (UU), Prof. dr. em. Jojada Verrips (UvA).

Course language
The study load is the equivalent of 5 ECTS (140 hours) and comprises eight days of study in Rome. Each student should arrange with his/her university whether the course can be part of the existing curriculum. Upon successful completion of the course, the KNIR will provide a certificate mentioning the study load and evaluation tools.
Active contribution to discussions based on readings, and a final essay, to be submitted within one month after the stay in Rome.

The masterclass is open to a maximum of 15 selected participants from all relevant disciplines (particularly religious studies, anthropology, art history, cultural history, visual culture studies) at (R)MA or PhD-level, as well as to early career academics. Prospective participants from all over the world may present their candidature.

Fees and Bursaries
Selected participants from KNIR partner universities (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) will receive full KNIR bursaries, comprising all expenses related to the masterclass (tuition, lodging in Rome, conference fees, etc.). Additionally they receive a €100,- reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome after submission of their final essay. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included.

Selected participants from other institutions need to cover their own expenses, but will be housed at the KNIR at a reduced rate of € 200,- for the duration of the Masterclass.

Applications are welcome until 1 March 2019. Notice on acceptance will follow before 15 March 2019. Candidates can apply by filling out the application form via the link below, submitting a motivation letter, a recent CV and an updated overview of study results.

 Facilities in Rome
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute, situated in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical centre of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

More info
Phone: (+39)063269621