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Iconoclasm: Past & Present Issues

October 4 – 6, 2021, Wrocław, Poland

Given the confusion prevalent all over Europe concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, the frustrating slowness of the vaccination campaign in many countries and the uncertainties concerning international travel, the History & Archaeology Section, in agreement with the Academia Europaea authorities and with the Wrocław Hub staff, decided to postpone, for the second time in a row, the conference on Iconoclasm, initially scheduled for October 2020 and now rescheduled for October 2021. This delay of one full year, nonetheless, allowed us to assemble an exceptional panel of participant speakers. 


Why is iconoclasm such a recurring phenomenon?

Since ancient times, iconoclasm, the destruction of images or monuments for religious or political reasons, has been a recurring phenomenon throughout the world. From Egypt to China or India; in the Christian, Muslim or Judaic traditions: iconoclasm has been the pretext for destruction, to erase unwanted objects of worship and, at the same time, to reassess the principles of conceptual belief.
But iconoclasm has also been the manifestation of a recurring damnatio memoriae, the ancient Roman practice of official obliteration of the memory of a specific individual or event.
The current negative trend of “political correctness”, as well as political fracturing and manifestations such as “no-platforming” and “historical re-interpretation and educational exclusions”, has imparted a new dimension to such a practice and an urgency in undertaking an in-depth systematic and scholarly analysis of these issues in a modern post-colonial and post “authoritarian” European societal context.


This first conference, intended to be held in Wrocław (Poland) between October 5 and October 7, 2020, aimed to analyse iconoclasm from a decidedly interdisciplinary perspective, with interventions from historians and archaeologists, as well as from specialists in art, literature, political science, classical studies, theology, and philosophy. Our intention was to involve most – if not all – of the sections in Classes 1 and 2 of Academia Europaea and YAE. The event was planned to be further developed into a major project theme of AE and could contribute to defining the position of Academia Europaea on the subject. The intention was to widen the scope of analysis and broaden the group of interdisciplinary participants. The first outputs were also expected to constitute a special “open access” issue of the European Review. It was to be a test event to gauge the potential scope for a future series. The subsequent series was intended to be developed to include other AE Hubs, especially the new Regional Knowledge Hub, launched by AE in Tbilisi in Georgia. The unique Georgian contexts and issues deriving from the Caucasus region of Europe were thought to constitute potentially valuable input. The event and the subsequent series were envisioned by the organisers to provide a means by which AE could facilitate the process of capacity building and integration of the Caucasus academic community into our wider European scholarship family.

The event was open to all interested scholars, not limited to AE or YAE members, and broadcast online (more details here). All papers presented were published in a special issue of the European Review. The programme of the conference is available here.

Nikita Harwich History & Archaeology Section Chair (2019-2022),


The event was sponsored by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.