AbstractOver the last two decades, various intellectual waves of theoretical repositioning and advancement within and beyond the “cultural turn” in the social sciences and humanities have revealed a widespread, increasing (and increasingly institutionalized) attention to the “visual” and “material” – plus, more recently and secondarily, the “sensory” and “affective” – dimensions of social and cultural life. In this context, this symposium aims at posing the concept of “icon” and the category of “iconicity” at the centre of contemporary cultural research in the social sciences. In order to open the discussion, this paper offers a comprehensive and critical assessment of the state of the art, highlighting the underlying tensions and the fundamental issues at stake, focusing on the most recent theoretical debates (e.g. the “iconic turn” in cultural sociology), and suggesting grey areas in need of further research and refinement. It aims to show that the category of iconicity can provide fertile ground for exploring connections and constructing dialogues among different strands in the social sciences and humanities that have so far developed almost independently of each other. Finally, it offers a number of insights toward the construction of an organic and truly multi-dimensional analytical-conceptual framework, which might throw into further relief the dynamics of iconic power in the increasingly global and digital age, and the relevance of iconicity as a category for social and cultural theory.
Keywords: Iconicity; iconic turn; icon; visual culture; material culture; digital culture.