Josipa Lulić

Illyrian religion and nation as zero institution

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Studies in Visual Arts and Communication – an international journal / June 2016 3(1)


The main theoretical and philosophical framework for this paper are Louis Althusser’s writings on ideology, and ideological state apparatuses, as well as Rastko Močnik’s writings on ideology and on the nation as the zero institution. This theoretical framework is crucial for deconstructing some basic tenants in writing on the religious sculpture in Roman Dalmatia, and the implicit theoretical constructs that govern the possibilities of thought on this particular subject. This paper demonstrates how the ideological construct of nation that ensures the reproduction of relations of production of modern societies is often implicitly or explicitly projected into the past, as trans-historical construct, thus soliciting anachronistic interpretations of the material remains of past societies.

This paper uses the interpretation of religious sculpture in Roman Dalmatia as a case study to stress the importance of the critique of ideology in the art history. The religious sculpture in Roman Dalmatia has been researched almost exclusively through the search for the presumed elements of Illyrian religion in visual representations; the formulation of the research hypothesis was firmly rooted into the idea of nation as zero institution, which served as the default framework for various interpretations. In this paper I try to offer some alternative interpretations, intending not to give definite answers, but to open new spaces for research.

Keywords: Roman sculpture, province of Dalmatia, nation as zero institution, ideology, Rastko Močnik, Louis Althusser.

Biographical note

Josipa Lulić, PhD – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Department of History of Art), University of Zagreb