Within ongoing processes of religious pluralisation across Europe, materialized religion, in the form of icons in public space, has been becoming increasingly important. Whenever religious icons, such as sacred buildings, signs, and sites, such as clothing, and public events are associated with religious traditions that beholders are unfamiliar with, they comprise or generate imaginaries about how different religions should co-exist. The main question of the project is: How do imaginaries of religious encounters – visually expressed in pictures, sculptures, symbols, graffiti, performances etc. –  structure urban space and vice versa?


In order to consider the complex nature of icons and to analyse how the religious dimension may become dominant over other dimensions of meaning, Iconic Religion combines spatial, material-aesthetic, visual analysis, and communicative-semiotic approaches with discourse analysis and reception studies alike.


  • openness – enclosure
  • transience – permanence
  • emerging forms of multi-religious encounter
  • converted places or churches
  • hidden, daily life sites
  • inner religious changes
  • established – precarious
  • daily life sites of religious encounter, of high religious and cultural density
  • icons that trigger debates and icons that don’t trigger debates.
  • old fashioned – popping up
  • situational – hierarchical
  • hidden – visible
  • inconspicuous – sensational
  • indigenous – migrant
  • obvious – cryptic.


Please find here some general literature recommendations:

  • Jane Garnett / Alana Harris (Ed.): Rescripting Religion in the City. Migration and Religious Identity in the Modern Metropolis. Ashgate Publishing Limited 2013
  • Nilüfer Göle / Ludwig Ammann (Hg.): Islam in Sicht. Der Auftritt von Muslimen im öffentlichen Raum. Bielefeld 2004
  • Nick Emmel & Andrew Clark: Learning to use visual Methodologies in our Research: A dialogue between two researchers, in: FQS (Forum: Qualitative Social Research), Volume 12, No. 1, Art. 36, January 2011
  • Jörg Pohlan, Herbert Glasauer, Christine Hannemann, Andreas Pott (Hg.): Jahrbuch StadtRegion 2011/2012. Schwerpunkt: Stadt und Religion. Opladen, Berlin, Toronto 2012

Iconic Religion (IcoRel) is funded by the HERA programme (Humanities in the European Research Area). It provides financial support for the IcoRel project as well as for 17 other projects, all of them focusing on cultural encounters.