AbstractIcons constantly punctuate social life and yet sociology has thematized cultural iconicity only very recently. This article describes what cultural sociology can gain by incorporating iconicity into the catalogue of its explanatory notions. Specifically, it discusses several new prominent iconological frameworks, or modes of seeing culture, and how they alter our understanding of meaning-making, both in social life and social science. Taken together, these conceptual transformations can be heuristically described as “the iconic turn.” What emerges out of this discussion is a new theorization of cultural complexity, whereby different registers of materiality are revealed to be as important in the processes of iconic signification as discursive formations. Subsequently, some major implications of the iconic turn are presented and pathways to productive and critical sociological operationalizations outlined.
Keywords: Iconicity, Visuality, Materiality, Social Criticism, Cultural Signification.