Ecce Homo in Sweden and Serbia: State, Church and Blasphemy

Danica Igrutinovic, C.A.M. van den Berg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter explores the responses to the exhibition Ecce Homo by Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin in two countries where the exhibition was on display: Sweden (1998–99) and Serbia (2012). In this exhibition, Ohlson depicts twelve moments from the life of Jesus Christ, mixing the imagery and symbolism of church art and queer culture while positioning Jesus in present-day Sweden. The chapter aims to explore how public responses to art that is perceived to be blasphemous or controversial to illuminate the construction of religion and homosexuality in relation to national belonging. Located at the crossroads of religion, the secular, and the modern, blasphemy cases are instances of impure mixing Plate where both proponents and opponents of a certain work of art, cartoon, or pop song determine what “real” religion is, and in that sense blasphemy cases read like moments of identity politics. The chapter will argue that in Sweden, Ecce Homo led to a meaningful debate on the theological implications of the exhibition, resulting in a redefinition of what counts as sacred in Sweden: the inclusion of LGBT people by Christians, in general, and the Church of Sweden, in particular. In Serbia, public debates on Ecce Homo illuminate the role of Christianity, in particular, Orthodoxy, in the transformation of Serbia from a post-socialist to a postsecular state, a process in which the “two Serbias” (traditionalist, associated with Orthodoxy and liberal, cosmopolitan, secular) compete for the future of Serbian society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Discourses about Homosexuality and Religion in Europe and Beyond
EditorsMarco Derks, Mariecke van den Berg
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-56326-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-56325-7
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Blasphemy
  • Controversial art
  • Homosexuality
  • Nationalism
  • Serbia
  • Sweden


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