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Workshop "Aesthetics of Atheism"

4 and 5 March 2021, online

Convenors: Horst Junginger and Katharina Neef

Our colleagues Horst Junginger and Katharina Neef from the Institute for the Study of Religion at Leipzig University are hosting a workshop in cooperation with the KFG: The two-day event entitled "Aesthetics of Atheism" focuses on the atheist imagination in socialist states of the 20th century, that to a great extent relied on orthodox Christianity as its negative counter model. Under the heading of "Atheist mindscapes: visualizations of religion and atheism in the museum", our Senior Research Fellow Edith Franke will give a presentation on "Construction and deconstruction of religion in museums".

Aims of the Workshop

Religion was a heavily contested issue in the socialist states of the 20th century. Politics oscillated between cooperation and sanction of religious communities and behaviour. To display religion publicly soon turned into a successful strategy for its delegitimation in the private and public sphere. Atheistic propaganda mushroomed with a new type of “scientific” atheism fostering classical anti-religious stances. Visualizations of the New Soviet Man took various forms which painted the bright future of socialism against religious darkness and backwardness. However, the atheist imagination relied to a great extent on orthodox Christianity as its negative counter model. Therefore, the centre of our interest is the question if atheism was parasitically dependent on religion or if it developed autonomous aesthetic configurations. Gathering from different disciplinary contexts, the workshop wants to discuss questions such as the following:

  • Where and in which way developed the new aesthetics of atheism?
  • Which attributes, concepts and imagery outlined secular values against the backdrop of an established religious culture?
  • How does this binary code work in particular? Are there overlapping issues, mutual dependencies, or semantic changes?
  • What role played museums in the educational work?
  • To which depth transformed secularism and atheism into the society?

Registration for the workshop is requested via e-mail on

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