”The image of violence and the study of material religion”: open access-article by Lucien van Liere

22 October, 2020

In his open access-article “The Image of Violence and the Study of Material Religion, an Introduction“, published in Religions in July 2020, Lucien van Liere argues why and how it is important to bring together the study of “religion and violence” and “material religion”. He ends his piece with the following, compelling statement:

”Directing more attention towards material religion in the study of religion-related violence is directing more attention towards how pictures are used and images created, and why icons are smashed. It means that less attention is given to doctrines and ideas as sources of violence, and more to how communities produce and reproduce themselves in narratives and pictures. Pictures can reveal specific conflict-positions, and evoke imageries and interpretations at cognitive, moral and emotional levels. Directing more attention towards religion-related violence in the study of material religion means directing more attention towards the interrelatedness of pictures and images, towards the intense lives of pictures of su↵ering and death within religious communications, and towards how this all connects to power-frames and interpretations of community bonding. It means that we should become more attentive in the study of religion to how pictures of violence circulate online, and to how humans make twisted copies of pictures of violence in real life situations.“

To follow how he gets there step by step, please download the full article here.


Lucien van Liere is an associate professor in Religious Studies at the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University. His research focus is on the role of religion in contexts of violent conflict.

Thumbnail image: a shot from the film Boys of Abu Ghraib, mentioned in the article. Retrieved from IndieWire (Rebel One Pictures, 2014).