Exploring the Shroud of Turin through a Gramscian theoretic lens

Karen McBride, Jill Atkins, Federica Doni, Warren Maroun

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This paper seeks to contribute to the academic accounting literature across several dimensions: accounting history, heritage asset accounting, alternative accounts, artistic accounts and emancipatory accounting theory, in an Italian cultural and historic context, employing the theoretical framework of Gramsci, an Italian political thinker. Specifically we focus on the Shroud of Turin, a religious artefact residing in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of Turin in Italy. The Turin Shroud is a historical and heritage artefact with intrinsic cultural, religious and monetary value. It attracts attention from both believers and sceptics and may be regarded as a “heritage asset”. The current paper contributes to the debate on accounting for this type of asset by providing a more comprehensive record of “value” than reporting on the Shroud merely in monetary terms. It expands on accounting research dealing with how the act of providing an account can be expanded to incorporate cultural, environmental and social constructions of value. Specifically, we explore an ‘account’ of the Turin Shroud from two differing stances. First, we employ Gramsci’s theoretical framework in relation to religion to interpret the Shroud as an important asset used by the Catholic Church as a hegemonic instrument, creating myth and mystery for the masses. Second, the paper considers the Shroud as an emancipatory account that is transformative, transmogrifying people’s faith, demythologising and breaking down the Church’s hegemony over catholic believers. As a physical emancipatory account of Christ’s passion and resurrection, the Shroud may be interpreted as a tangible representation of culture, belief and faith. The paper contributes to research into the social constructionist framing of accounting which recognises art, poetry, music and other forms of literary and creative endeavour as alternate types of accounting.


Conference28èmes Journées d’Histoire du Management et des Organisations Accounting History Review Annual Conference Le patrimoine, appropriation et transmission Patrimony: Acquisition and Transmission
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