Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 13, No 4 (2019)

Image Ecologies, Spiritual Polytropy, and the Anthropocene

Adrian Ivakhiv
Issued Date: 29 Apr 2020


This article advances a four-fold contribution to theorizing the relationship between images, religion, and the Anthropocene. First, it proposes a ‘process-semiotic’ definition of the image as a sensorially perceptible form that mediates agential relations both between humans and between humans and the larger world. Second, it argues for a conception of religion and of spirituality that sees the world as varying on a scale between the ‘polytropic’ and the ‘monotropic’, where ‘tropism’ refers to the ‘turning’ toward sources of sustenance, relief, hope, authority, and the like. This turning is commonly, if not universally, accomplished with the aid of images. Bringing these ideas together, it then advances a typology of ‘image regimes’, each of which establishes relationships between understandings of images and of reality, relationships which can be traced across diverse religious and cultural contexts. Finally, it proposes a set of questions by which to bring ecocritical analysis to expressions of these image regimes in the emerging ‘image-world’ of digital culture, a culture that is coterminous, if not causally linked with, the growing recognition of the Anthropocene. It ends with a brief application of these questions to the Anthropocene Project, an art exhibition, film, and book project by Edward Burtunsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas De Pencier.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.39183


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