Cause we are living in a material world: on iconic turn in cultural sociology

The strong programme in cultural sociology has recently taken up topics of visuality and materiality and made an effort to include them into one theory. The iconic theory suggested in Iconic Power (2012) pursues two main goals. It aims at overcoming the duality of materialism and idealism, two approaches that have in the sociological theo- ry until now been fully incompatible. The proposed concept of icon combines an aes- thetic surface and a meaningful depth of a cultural object, which are mutually consti- tuted and intertwined. Bringing the elusive experience, the feeling of material objects and their deep cultural meanings together seems to be the right way to go for cultural sociology that has dealt with collective emotions and representations since its birth. The iconic theory also makes possible the emancipation and liberation of images from the textual and discursive dominance typical of the sociological thinking in the 20th century. The source of inspiration for the new theory was the so called iconic turn in art theory. However, there seem to be some fundamental disagreements between these two approaches. My thesis presents the newborn iconic theory and reflects its benefits and pitfalls. Furthermore, drawing on the background of developments within the scholarly approach to images and on the currently used sociological methods of image analysis I offer possible answers to the questions and puzzles raised by the theory of iconic power.

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