What makes a picture offensive? On religion, art and visual culture

27 juni 2018
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On June 27 (8-9:30pm) Christoph Baumgartner, Monica Juneja, Anne-Marie Korte, Birgit Meyer, Jojada Verrips and Pooyan Tamimi Arab will talk about the new publication Taking Offense at Spui25. In pluralistic societies around the world, images are triggering heated controversy as never before. Their study offers a perfect entry point into the clashes between different values, ideas, and sensibilities. How is the relation between visual regimes in art, journalism, politics, and religion negotiated in plural settings? Situated at the interface of art history, anthropology and religious studies, the volume Taking Offense unravels the dynamics of taking offense in current politics and aesthetics of cultural representation in Europe and beyond.

This programme aims at presenting the book with some of its authors, but also aims to discuss questions and topics raised by the book, such as "pictures that divide". Coined by one of the speakers, Pooyan Tamimi Arab, "pictures that divide" describe the role of contested pictures – images of the prophet Muhammad, posters of kissing Muslim women, and offensive visual culture – in public debates on religious difference. Recent examples from the Netherlands and beyond will be discussed in relation to the book, which contains essays on the very question of what makes a picture offensive, and how this is related to anatomies of inclusion and exclusion.

About the speakers

Christoph Baumgartner is Associate Professor of Ethics in the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Fellow of Religious Studies at University College Utrecht. Principal topics of his research and teaching include religion in the public sphere, freedom of religion and freedom of expression, tolerance, citizenship, 'national identity', secularity and (post-)secularism, environmental ethics and climate change.

Monica Juneja is Professor of Global Art History at the Cluster "Asia and Europe" at the University of Heidelberg. Her areas of research include practices of visual representation, the disciplinary trajectories of art history in South Asia, gender and political iconography in modern France, the interface between Christianisation, religious identities and cultural practices in early modern South Asia.

Birgit Meyer (moderator) is professor religious studies at the Utrecht University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist and working on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years, currently chairs the research program Religious Matters in an Entangled World (www.religousmatters.nl). She is one of the editors of the volume.

Anne-Marie Korte is professor of religion, gender and modernity at Utrecht University. She recently started a research project on Gender and Sexuality in Women’s Conversions to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Contemporary Western Europe, and is one of the co-editors of the volume.

Jojada Verrips is emeritus professor in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He carried out research on, amongst others, a Dutch farming community, Dutch bargees and Ghanaian fishermen and developed the anthropology of ‘the wild (in the) West’.

Pooyan Tamimi Arab is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Utrecht University. His PhD research Amplifying Islam was on the use of loudspeakers for Islamic calls to prayer in the Netherlands. His new research project Pictures That Divide focuses on contested visual culture, diversity, and religion.


You can sign up for this program for free. If you subscribe for the program we count on your presence. If you are unable to attend, please let us know via spui25@uva.nl or +31 (0)20 525 8142.

Location: Spui 25-27, Amsterdam

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MINDBOOKSATH : athenaeum