Images and Chimeras: The Role of Images in the European Society and in Iconographic Traditions

    • Victor Anches
    • Presentation speakers
      • Victor Anches, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France


    The European contemporary society, the result of the digital revolution, is a new society, based on the image. Today we use images at a scale as never before, for universal communication, and as an instrument of production and diffusion of knowledge. Although, the research in the field of the theory of knowledge is based just on the discursive and linguistic type of knowledge, and the researches on the power, the effect and the function of images are still marginal. Even so, the society in which we are living is not the only society that gave such importance at images. In former European societies, like the cases of Byzantine iconoclasm or Reformation iconoclasm,the image was also placed at the centre of the debates. No less important it is the case of societies without writing.

    Anthropology faces a recurrent problem caused by an ethnocentric thinking, more exactly, it cannot define in a satisfactory and relevant way the cultural differences.Thus, the “oral” and “non-western” traditions are always analyzed in a binary logic, using a series of distinction between “Us and them”. Contrary to the usual way of understanding the dissemination of knowledge inside a culture, as being possible only through texts, the cultures without written language have other means to build a social memory. By outlining the theory of Carlo Severi about the relation between image and parole in the ritual context, we would like to show the role of the image in societies without writing and to analyze the ideological relation of image and language.

    However, the contemporary society remains unique by the extent of the means of communication, by the new dimensions inferred to the images by the current technologies and by their great flow. Thereby a comparative analysis between the ways in which the images are used in our society, and in different iconographic traditions is imperative.