Religion, Art and Propaganda, Distance Education

What is the power of images? How can icons and idols serve religious and political agendas? How can the aesthetic be political?
These are some of the questions that this course addresses. It explores the intersection of visual culture with religion, ideology and political power. Students will learn about both aesthetic and conceptual/narrative dimensions of artworks (e.g. paintings, sculpture, prints) and how these can perform an ideological and/or propaganda purpose in religious and political contexts. Examples from history as well as modern/contemporary visual culture will be discussed. In addition to more traditional interpretations of images, the course brings into discussion contemporary scholarly approaches to the use of visual/propagandistic means in religious and secular-religious contexts.

At the end of the course, the student is expected to be able to:

  • Discuss the relationship between images and particular religious ideas analyzed during the course, as well as the use of both images and religious ideas for political/ideological purposes
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of up-to-date theoretical investigation in image theory in its connection to religious and political ideas
  • Demonstrate advanced writing and analytic skills

Reservation för revidering av litteraturen.

All students will be required to read the following texts (or selected chapters):

Besancon, Alain (2000). The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (220 p.)

Chomsky, Noam (2002). Media Control. Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press (112 p.)

Clark, Toby (1997). Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century. New York: Abrams. (100 p.)

Davor Džalto (2015). “Screens and Screams: Icons Re-Framed” IKON Journal of Iconographic Studies, Vol. 8, 35-42.

Eagleton, Terry (1991). The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell (30 p.)

Golomstock, Igor (2011). Totalitarian Art. New York: Overlook Duckworth. (150 p.)

Groys, Boris (2008). Art Power. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. (130 p.)

Guy Debord (1995). The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books.

Mesch, Claudia (2013). Art and Politics: A Small History of Art for Social Change since 1945.London: I.B. Tauris. (200 p.)

Mondzain, Marie-Jose (2005). Image, Icon, Economy: The Byzantine Origins of the Contemporary Imaginary. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (80 p.)

Shiner, Larry (2001). The Invention of Art. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (75 p.)


Additional texts will be read in preparation for particular course assignments (e.g. research paper). Suggested further readings include (but are not limited to): 

Birkenstock, Eva et al. (2014). Art and Ideology Critique After 1989. Bregenz: Kunstahus (120 p.)

Costello, Diarmuid, Willsdon Dominic (Eds.), (2008). The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics. London: Tate. (255 p.)

Duncan, Carol (1998). “The Art Museum As Ritual” in: The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology (Edited by Donald Preziosi). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 473-485 p. 

Džalto, Davor (2012). “Beauty Will Destroy the World?” in: Beauty and the Beautiful in Eastern Christian Culture. Sophia Studies in Orthodox Theology (Vol. 6, Edited by Natalia Ermolaev). New York: Theotokos Press, 279-291.

Giakalis, Ambrosios (2005). Images of the Divine: The Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Leiden: Brill (130 p.)

Mitchell, W. J. T. (1996). “What Do Pictures “Really” Want?” in: October, Vol. 77/1996, pp. 71-82.

Strigalyov, Anatoly Anatolyevich (1988). “The Art of the Revolutionary Period” in: Art and Revolution. (Exhibition Catalogue, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts). Vienna 1998. 50-72.

Vacano, Diego A. (2007). The Art of Power: Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and the Making of Aesthetic Political Theory. Plymouth: Lexington Books. (190 p.)


Additional texts/handouts may be assigned.


Schemat finns tillgängligt senast en månad innan kursen startar. Vi rekommenderar inte att du skriver ut schemat eftersom vissa ändringar kan ske.

Öppna schemat


A = Framstående, B = Mycket bra, C = Bra, D = Tillfredsställande, E = Tillräcklig, Fx = Otillräcklig, komplettering möjlig, F = Otillräcklig


  • Hemtentamen
  • Muntlig tentamen
  • PM
  • Seminarier

A Bachelor’s degree in Theology (equivalent to the Swedish Kandidatexamen) from an internationally recognized university. Proficiency in English through an internationally recognized test, e. g. TOEFL, IELTS, or the equivalent.

Fastställd av Ämnesföreträdarkollegiet vid Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm den 22 januari 2020.