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Institute hosts conversation with Yale professor on “Icons and Iconoclasm”

The St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community hosted a conversation with Carlos Eire, the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, on Icons and Iconoclasm: In Religion, Politics, and the Academy.

Eire, a political refugee from Cuba, reached American shores at age 11 via Operation Peter Pan (Operación Pedro Pan) and has made a career of studying religious imagery and conflict. In a wide-ranging discussion moderated by Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community Edmund Santurri, he explored the broad intersections between faith and politics, using as his canvas Cuba of the mid-1900s. 

Eire, a staunch critic of the Cuban regime, spoke of his childhood in Cuba and the intersectional identity of his life as a Cuban exile and Reformation scholar. The conversation touched on modern Cuban-American relations, including President Obama’s “Cuban Thaw” and President Trump’s more restrictive policies, as well as the topic of censorship (all of Eire’s books are banned in Cuba, and he has experienced a rash of rejections from speakerships and publications).

Throughout the discussion, Eire worked to expand the way that we talk about icons, in both sacred and secular forms. He explained that the term “icon” invokes our backgrounds and attachments to the world around us and advocated a greater understanding of the icons in and around us across social and religious boundaries.

Watch the full conversation in the video above or on the Institute for Freedom and Community web page.

The Institute for Freedom & Community encourages free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues. By exploring diverse ideas about politics, markets, and society, The Institute aims to challenge presuppositions, question easy answers, and foster constructive dialogue among those with differing values and contending points of view. Established at St. Olaf College in 2014, The Institute offers a distinctive opportunity to cultivate civil discourse within a liberal arts setting.

This conversation is part of the Institute’s 2020 fall series, The Presidential Election and a Nation in Crisis: Polarization, Pandemic, Prejudice. The series has focused on the political divisions in the U.S. leading up to the 2020 presidential election, as well as discussions about similarly polarizing issues such as race and class, and the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.