Historians of Islamic Art Association
2021 Biennial Symposium
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
April 15 - 17, 2021
Thursday, April 15th
4:00 – 6:00 pm
Communicating Islamic Art History
As an academic sub-discipline, the field of Islamic art history has widened considerably in its purview over recent decades, pushing its chronology forward into the contemporary moment, while also conceiving of a wide range of questions that go beyond the histories of aesthetically valorized objects and monuments. This changing interpretational landscape has been tracked through the assertions, arguments, and debates that are presented in academic conferences, in published scholarship, and through museum exhibitions and their accompanying publications. This panel contends that the field must also reckon with multiple modes of knowing that have emerged in the early 21st century and go beyond mere methodological shifts, scholarly discoveries, or interpretational innovations. It does not ask what do we know about Islamic art?, but rather, more fundamentally, how is knowledge in our discipline constituted and disseminated? To what ends do we express Islamic art history, and how? The panelists explore various new modes of analysis, understanding, and communication, while also taking into account the subjective experiences of accessing, conceiving of, engaging, and experiencing Islamic art.
Nancy Um, Professor, Binghamton University
Islamic Art History and its Networks
This paper proposes a new historiography of Islamic art history, which conceives hinges upon those who produce knowledge, thereby conceiving of the field as generated by a group of intertwined actors and knowledge producers. It takes as its primary source the dissertation rosters compiled by the College Art Association, which can be used to track certain changes in the profession, particularly its growth, expansion, and realignment since the 1990s, when Islamic art was first appeared as a standard entered as a stable and consistent category in the Art Bulletin’s listing. The paper relies upon data-driven methods to tell a visualized story about these shifts, thereby providing a new way to think about changing systems of intellectual lineage, training, and identity in the field of Islamic art history, and to examine all of our own places within it. Yet, at the same time, it acknowledges that Islamic art historyhas been a changing discursive category that has complicated its own analysis and process of datafication.
Ladan Akbarnia, Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, The San Diego Museum of Art
“In Two Rooms, A Universe”: Communicating Islamic Visual Culture to a
The WSJ review of the British Museum’s Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World, which opened in 2018, bore the headline, “In Two Rooms, A Universe,” referring to the extensive geographical and chronological reach of the new gallery and its diverse display of objects, materials, techniques, and ideas. Using an insider account of the British Museum reinstallation as a case study, this paper acknowledges the challenges of presenting Islamic visual culture to a wider public within the various physical, financial, and conceptual parameters of institutions and the value of tackling those challenges to present a framework paradigm with a reconceived narrative making the gallery accessible to all.
Rather than focusing solely on the significance of the British Museum’s epistemic shift from presenting “Islamic art” to communicating Islamic visual and material culture, this paper examines how the experience of the British Museum installation project team – comprised of administrators, advisers, curators, designers, educators, conservators, photographers, videographers, digital and collection managers, mountmakers, preparators, community representatives, and more – and the reception of the final display may serve as a prospective model for the public presentation of Islamic visual culture in global museums. The paper ultimately suggests that today’s museums must engage the public through a variety of communication methods that appeal to viewers’ senses and sensibilities while reflecting relevant academic scholarship in dialogue with current global concerns. In such a model, viewer experience ultimately becomes as multifaceted as the content displayed.
Stephennie Mulder, Associate Professor, University of Texas, Austin
Toward a Global Islamic Art for an Interconnected World
The Islamic oikumene is nearly unique in human history in that it was global from its inception and extremely long-lived, rapidly encompassing a geographical sphere that stretched across every known continent for over a millennium and creating stable systems of pragmatic coexistence for a diversity of faiths and peoples. Unlike medieval Europe, which for much of its history sat on the margins of global events, the Islamic world has always been at the center. And yet, despite its absolute centrality to global history, Islamic art is still taught and researched as though the situation were reversed: as though it were Islam on the margins – a curious, ornamental side-episode in the central tale of the rise of Europe.
The field’s marginal status is not news, but how can we redress this false perception rapidly in a context in which attitudes of historical marginality and outsider status fuel the rising tide of Islamophobia? This paper argues that the instantaneous global potential of social media and other forms of popular online writing like Wikipedia can rapidly reorient the field of art history as a whole. Yet, our field remains insular, and the potential of online media has been largely ignored and underexploited. Meanwhile, crises in the popular perception of Islam as well as within medieval studies have made our methods and perspectives more relevant than ever, revealing a crucial opening for our field to rapidly shape both the public and scholarly discourse.
Wendy M. K. Shaw, Professor, Free University, Berlin
Islamic Perceptual Culture: Towards Another Episteme
The field of Islamic art history has developed as an extension of European analytical categories and methods to a realm broadly designated as “Islamic”. Thus even in extending the scope of the discipline, it retains the epistemic centrality of modern European thought. This paper discusses a decolonial analytical method, explored at length in my recent work What is “Islamic” Art: Between Religion and Perception (2019), derived from Platonic dialectics, through Islamic philosophical texts, and into modern discourses. This method aims less to learn about the Islamic world as external to a supposedly neutral modern subject constituted through the art historical episteme, but to learn from the systems of? performative agency and informed reception that circulate in Islamic discourses. It suggests a model in which the identity of works derives not from the realm of origin but from practices of reception. Developing an alternative episteme, the paper proposes a means by which Islamic art history challenges the subjective authority of the European episteme as a globalized model for knowledge.
Friday, April 16th
8:30 – 10:00 am
Craft and its Potentials: Histories from Below and Beside
Craft—here meaning goods that were mass- or serially-produced in quantity and outside the rarefied confines of court workshops—has always sat rather uncomfortably in Islamic art history. Craft production has often been seen as a pendant to central narratives of imperium and conquest, or shoe-horned awkwardly into studies focusing on royal ateliers. In a corollary, craft’s own histories of production and consumption have often been neglected. However, the objects of craft, their presence in the written and material records, and their twentieth-century historiographies together present opportunities to write new narratives and to re-frame field-wide questions, creating alternatives to the top-down dynastic models that have historically dominated the scholarly study of Islamic art. This panel centers craft production and reception in three different ways, showing how its study can open new horizons for both methodologies and broader conceptualization.
Margaret Graves’s paper explores the potential of metalcasting molds to illuminate non-verbal histories of making in the pre-modern era. Craft and its instruments become a means of re-encountering Islamic artworks as active processes rather than static objects. Amanda Phillips’s paper compares rhetoric about weaving, as represented in the Ottoman written record, with the actual objects themselves. Here, crafts preserve the actions of artisans and workers, allowing us to write history from below. Jessica Hallett’s paper introduces Calouste Gulbenkian’s collection of nineteenth-century dress and evaluates its importance as a compelling personal record of turmoil and genocide in the early twentieth century. Its history and significance are rarely discussed, with most scholars instead concentrating on the same collector’s “masterpiece” objects.
Margaret S. Graves, Associate Professor, Indiana University
Objects-in-the-Negative, or, the Presence of Absence: Pre-modern Molds and Craft Narratives
Pre-modern stone molds from the Middle East, used for the production of small cast metal objects, have rarely received much direct attention. When this kind of mold appears in scholarship it is usually in an ancillary role, its value perceived as mainly didactic: molds are sometimes appended to collections of jewelry proper as a kind of supporting document, while at other times they seem to have been acquired as a cheaper stand-in for the jewelry itself. In spite of the ubiquity of metalcasting and mold use as metaphors for poetic production in medieval Arabic and Persian literary theory, the mold has rarely been explored as a cultural object in its own right.
At the physical heart of the mold is an absence. It is an object-in-the-negative, pointing always to something other than itself—the earring or pendant or plaque that it was made to shape. It is not a coincidence that these metalcasting molds, in spite of their sometimes striking artistry, are largely resistant to art historical methodologies. Above all, their treatment reveals an uncertainty about how to integrate the act of making into the history of Islamic art. The scarcity of direct textual documentation for making in the medieval period, and the concomitant “unhitching” of craft from the collected canon of Islamic art, have left craft practices outside the main disciplinary frameworks. Taking as its primary focus a group of pre-modern molds held in the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin, this paper will show how such molds are paradigmatic objects for exploring a greater silence in Islamic art’s histories: that of the multivalent, and often non-verbal, histories of making.
Amanda Philips, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia
Art History from Below and Outside: Silk Velvet and Cotton Double-Cloth
The history of Ottoman weaving—a chief craft sector and an important part of the economy in the early modern period—is most often written with palace inventories and illustrated with crimson and gold velvets or shimmering cloth-of-gold. Extant objects provide inarguable evidence for the sophistication and skill of designers and weavers, and written documents confirm the presence of royal workshops, including those within the confines of the palace itself. But tens of thousands of surviving objects descend somewhat from these peaks of perfection and can in no way be linked with Sultans or even the so-called elite. They are rarely studded and less often displayed. Exploring these less-than-stellar objects and treating them on their own terms opens the field beyond the art of the one-percent and allows for a more nuanced and more inclusive art history.
This paper takes as its main subject two different categories of textiles—voided-and- brocaded silk-velvets and figured cotton double-cloth—and asks separate but related questions of each. For the first, I argue that they are physical manifestations of the circumstances of their production and as such, preserve the actions and the intentions of their makers. While written sources indicate weavers acquiesced to imperial commands, the objects tell entirely other stories. For the small amount of surviving cotton, which is figured with religious imprecations, I argue that it shows a mode of production and consumption completely outside that of the capital and its styles, and which may have acted as a quiet challenge to the visual hegemony of the court.
Jessica Hallet, Curator of Early Modern Middle East, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Outside the Gallery of Masterpieces: Calouste Gulbenkian’s Embroideries, a Tale of Turbulence
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869-1955), oil industrialist and one of the most celebrated collectors of Islamic art in the early twentieth century, was of Armenian origin, born in the Ottoman Empire, and later settled in Europe. Described as a “Maecenas” after his death, Gulbenkian’s Islamic art collection was organized in the new museum in Lisbon (1969) according to equally grand imperial categories. Gulbenkian’s most famous object, Ulugh Beg’s jade jug, with its powerful dynastic associations, was given pride of place at the entrance. Since then, the gallery has become renowned for its “masterpieces” —Mamluk enameled glass, Safavid silk carpets, Ottoman tiles and ceramics, and more— chosen by the “world’s richest man.”
However, this narrative of elite patronage is limited and obscuring. Viewing Gulbenkian’s artistic choices through the lens of the “great court cultures” has rendered part of his collection—a group of nineteenth-century embroideries and women’s dress— almost completely invisible. Indeed, the purpose-built structure of the gallery never anticipated a place for these late Ottoman textiles to be displayed, showing how thoroughly they were ignored by the first museum consultants, Ernst Kühnel and Basil Gray, for their “craft” status, and possibly also their feminine function. Despite his own penchant for claiming “only the best,” Gulbenkian regarded these objects as a significant part of his collection, as seen in his careful inventories of the objects. In looking more closely at their acquisition, it is possible to tell a compelling personal story of diaspora, turmoil and genocide in the early decades of the twentieth century.
10:30 – 12:00 pm
The Labour of Names: Signatures and Artistic Practice
The tremendous potential of signatures executed upon historic objects and buildings to shed light upon artistic agency, and design and production processes has been a growing area of interest in Islamic art. Recent scholarship on medieval Islamic metalwork has demonstrated how a close study of signatures broadens the scope of questions we might pose towards objects and, in so doing, productively complicated our understanding of artistic process. Yet, much work remains to be done. In this panel, we tie material and technological knowledge with close linguistic study.
Through papers focusing upon works on paper, textiles, and architecture, we explore how signatures expose the complex relations of labour, artistic creation, and patronage in the design and execution of art in the medieval and early modern Islamic world.
Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
On Signature, Labor, and Authorship in Medieval and Early Modern Islam
Artists’ signatures in medieval and early modern Islam have often been approached as documentary evidence, signs of authenticity linking hand, work, and name. But signatures are not simply referential. They can fulfill various other roles: in addition to revealing an artist’s name, they might also function as a tool of empowerment, a mark of ownership, and a claim to authority. The referential model does not account for the visual aspects of signatures either. A signature’s appearance can provoke a particular visual experience; signatures can also frame, enrich, and complicate their meaning through their placement and form. Anchored in a selection of case studies from medieval and early modern Islam, this paper will engage historical and critical questions on the relation between signature, labor, and power. What can signatures tell us about the division of labor among artists and craftsmen in the context of the medieval and early modern Islamic world? What conceptions of self, agency, and authority did they manifest in a period not yet marked by modern, secularized understandings of the human subject?
Corinne Mühlemann, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bern
The Weaver’s Signature? The Division of Labor in the Production of Lampas Woven Silks
Among extant lampas woven silks produced during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries in central Asia, a small group are notable for woven signatures in their pattern repeats. These signatures have only been marginally discussed by textile historians, who labelled them as weavers’ signatures. Within the field of Islamic art history, they have been completely left out.
This lacuna highlights the particular challenges of medieval textile research: namely, the limited number of surviving samples, scarcity of written documentation, and general mobility of textiles within and without the Islamicate world. By combining technical analysis of textiles with a close linguistic study of their inscriptions however, this paper argues that lampas woven silks should be included in the discussion of workshops and questions concerning the division of labour within the making of art objects, as it has been done especially for metalwork and ceramics. In so doing, this paper scrutinizes the relationships between master and student, and between craftsmen, client, recipient and dealer and demonstrates how textiles can contribute to our understanding of artistic production in the premodern Islamic world.
Fatima Quraishi, Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside
Signatures in Stone: Names, Prefixes, and Design Methods at the Makli Necropolis
The dissolution of the Timurid empire in the early sixteenth-century prompted the movement of multiple Turkic groups into South Asia. Among these were the Arghuns and Tarkhans, who conquered southern Sindh in 1522/23. Artists, poets, and intellectuals were also part of these migrations. Their presence in the Mughal empire and the Deccan has been studied but smaller regional polities are only now coming to scholarly attention. In Sindh, the presence of artists during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is largely represented by extant monuments in the vast Makli necropolis (established in the late fourteenth century), with multiple elaborately carved stone funerary enclosures and brick and tile tombs. Although many monuments are the work of unnamed workers, there are numerous buildings with signatures of artists, architects, and calligraphers. These signatures employ a variety of forms, forms that reveal not only the identities of artists but also their working methods. This paper combines a close study of these texts with other material remains from Sindh, including firmans and manuscripts, to suggest possible modes of artistic transmission and workshop organisation in the region, practices that link the necropolis with working methods operative in the wider eastern Islamic world.
3:30 – 5:00 pm
Political Transformations through Architectural Interventions in Islamic South Asia
Throughout the history of political Islam in South Asia, Muslim patrons have adopted a variety of different methods to negotiate with preexisting material and cultural practices in the Indian subcontinent. This could include the destruction of temples and construction of mosques with temple spolia, the appropriation of preexisting architectural idioms for new political and religious purposes, and the selective mutilation of figural sculptures, among other practices. This panel considers different instances of these negotiations in sculpture, painting, and architecture, all happening in the wake of major regime changes in South Asia, be it the spread of the Delhi Sultanate into the Deccan (late 13th – early 14th centuries) or the transformation of northern India under the Mughals (mid-16th century). Ross Lee Bernhaut examines textual, painted, and archaeological evidence to explore the reshaping of the rock-hewn Jain Tīrthaṅkaras at Gwalior initiated by Babur, the first Mughal emperor. Mohit Manohar analyzes how the architecture of two early mosques in Daulatabad, built out of temple spolia, meaningfully reflected dynastic changes from Hindu to Islamic polities in the Deccan. And Pushkar Sohoni demonstrates the continuities in building practices across temple and mosque architecture during the medieval period in the Deccan. By nuancing existing discourses on issues of iconoclasm, spoliation, and simulacrum, the papers in this panel critically examine how sovereigns signaled political transformations by intervening in existing architectural sites.
Ross Lee Bernhaut, Ph.D. student, University of Michigan
Babur and the Transformation of Gwalior’s Rock-Hewn Tirthankara
During Babur’s campaign to establish sovereignty in his newly formed empire in the Indian subcontinent, one of the places he visits is Gwalior. On his tour of Gwalior in 1528, Babur (r. 1526-1530) encounters and reacts to some of the architectural monuments of the fortified city, as well as the colossi of Jain Tirthankaras (primarily from the 15th century) hewn into the sandstone outcrops of Gwalior hill which, ultimately, he orders “destroyed” (vīrān kardand). This paper queries the ways in which hundreds of these Jain images were transformed in conjunction with the regime change ushered in by Babur. I explore how Babur’s image-defacing campaign in Gwalior was conceived of and remembered by the perpetrators, represented by artist interpolators, and effectuated in stone. In order to analyze the discursive, pictorial, and literal reshaping of these Jain monuments I will primarily examine three sorts of evidence: the written testimony originally composed in Chaghatay Turkish and recorded in the Bāburnāma, the corresponding painting from a later Persian manuscript translation of the Bāburnāma, and the material remains of the Jain sculptures themselves. This triangulation of textual, painted, and archaeological evidence complicates conventional synchronic and unidimensional scholarly accounts of image making and marring at Gwalior. Subsequent to Babur’s intervention on Gwalior hill, the Tirthankara images were again made and remade through Jain reclamation projects and nineteenth-century photography and engravings. The complex history of intervention and recontextualization the Jain images have experienced since Babur’s visit force us to reconsider the extent to which these images were, in fact, “destroyed.”
Mohit Manohar, Ph.D. candidate, Yale University
The Earliest Mosques of Regime Change in the Deccan
When early Muslim kings conquered important new territories in South Asia, they constructed Jami Mosques, the earliest of which were often made with temple spolia. However, the use of temple spolia was not restricted to the making of Jami Mosques alone. Other smaller mosques, which resembled temple maṇḍapas, were also made with spolia. Scholars have only recently begun to pay attention to these smaller structures. This paper considers two early mosques in the city of Daulatabad, located in Deccan India—the Kalakot Mosque (dated here to 1307), resembling a maṇḍapa and the Jami Mosque of Daulatabad (dated here to 1314)—both built under the reign of the Delhi sultan ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Khaljī (r. 1296-1316). These structures sit only a hundred meters apart, and the use of temple spolia in both raises an intractable question: under what circumstance was repeated temple destruction at one particular site an opportune thing to do? I analyze the architecture of these mosques and read the textual evidence surrounding Khalji’s invasion of Daulatabad. I emphasize that conquering a territory was seldom a one-time event, and that Khalji had to mount three major invasions—in 1296, 1307, and 1314—before Daulatabad could become a part of his empire. Concomitant with this, I argue that the two mosques were built after two different invasions, and that their architecture meaningfully indexed Delhi’s changing relationship with Daulatabad, which was a territory to be looted in 1296, a vassal state in 1307, and fully integrated into the Delhi Sultanate by 1314. The two early mosques in Daulatabad thus reflected the different stages of regime change in the Deccan.
Pushkar Sohoni, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research
Domes on a Medieval Temple at Anwa: Continuities in Construction Methods Across Deccani Political Formations
Historic architecture is often used as an instrument for making territorial claims. The dynastic, regional, and national mapping of space is often based on architectural remains. In the absence of epigraphic or literary evidence, stylistic attributes of individual architectural sites are the means of making dynastic attributions, and thus spatial assertions. In South Asia, the presence of Islam is increasingly and erroneously being associated with a complete departure from earlier architectural traditions. It is, however, possible to demonstrate the continuity of traditions, even as new architectural programmes used local labour and constructional techniques. Thus, mosques and tombs, two architectural typologies that accompanied the spread of Islam in South Asia, were built in a regional idiom, employing the same craftspeople who built temples. As the architecture of a single medieval temple at Anwa (ca. 13th century) demonstrates, the simple narratives that are used to map style, dynastic patronage, sectarian claims, and territory can be complicated by a detailed analysis of the actual fabric of the building. Theorizing about the techniques through which local guilds constructed this temple allows us to write a nuanced narrative of the structure, rather than relying on dynastic or stylistic traits alone. Such a study, therefore, enables us to tell a counter-narrative to the popular reading of the temple at Anwa and other comparative structures.
5:30 – 7:00 pm
New Regimes of Perception in Early Modern Iran
The Safavid dynastic era (1501-1722) bore witness to vast political, religious, economic, and cultural change in Iran. A widely acknowledged pivot point was the establishment of Isfahan as the Safavids’ third and final capital in 1598 by Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1589-1629) and the city’s development into a stage for imperial ceremony and a hub of international commerce and culture. For nearly a century, scholars framed ‘Abbas’s reign as a “golden age” followed by gradual stagnation and decline under his successors. Studies of the past two decades, however, have begun to reassess this narrative in favor of one that emphasizes continued dynamism and complexity in art, architecture, and urban planning. The formulation of this new narrative has been mirrored by emergent methodological currents that have shifted the focus away from earlier formalist and socio-historical concerns—style, attribution, patronage, and expressions of state ideology—toward questions of transregionality, materiality, and reception, among others. This panel aims to build upon these recently laid foundations by exploring how Iran’s transformation into a globally connected early modern state, emblematized by the new Isfahan, occasioned, framed, or even necessitated shifts in perceptual regimes. Ocularity and other embodied senses, multisensoriality and transmediality, culturally contingent modes of perception, and the perception of time and space are among the points of transformation to be explored.
Michael Chagnon, Curator, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto
The Ontology of a Kerman Vase: Thing and Image in Early Modern Iran
This paper questions the notional delineation of thing and/from image, materiality and/from representation, by examining a vase made in late seventeenth-century Kerman (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1187-1893). Produced using a mould, the vase has two flattened surfaces, from which (literally) emerge depictions of a vase, executed in textured red- and olive- colored slip and framed by stalks of flowers in contrasting blue-and-white underglazes. In other words, it is a multisensorial and self-reflexive object, a vase that stages images of a vase.
Until the twenty-first century, ceramic objects of early modern Iran formed the subject of only limited art historical study, focusing mainly on identifying formal and decorative prototypes or determining sites of production through connoisseurial and technological methods. More recently, scholars have considered the discursive potential of seventeenth-century Persian ceramics through iconographic analysis of their (figural) decoration and investigation into their display (Golombek 2011; Babaie 2013). In a departure from earlier studies, this paper describes the ways in which the V&A vase establishes a dialectic between “thingness” and representation, and examines how this relates to the conception, perception, and formation of images in Perso-Islamic thought. At issue is the applicability of current methodological frames to the early modern Persianate artistic context.
Farshid Emami, Assistant Professor, Rice University
Sensing Time and Sound: Clocks and Rhythms of Life in Safavid Isfahan
This paper explores the experience of time in Safavid Isfahan by investigating how a set of new and old devices, sounds, and materials—clock towers, call to prayer, coffee—engendered a distinctive temporal regime in the city. The paper specifically focuses on the sonic markers of the passage of time in the Maydan-i Naqsh-i Jahan, the grand urban square of seventeenth-century Isfahan. Through an analysis of the architectural form of the portal to the Qaysariyya (the royal market on the northern side of the Maydan) and a sixteenth-century Persian-language treatise on mechanical clocks, I argue that, contrary to the common assumption, the clock and bell that were once installed at the Qaysariyya portal were integral parts of its original design. The contemporary meaning and perception of this mechanical clock, I further contend, can be better appreciated in the broader context of the square, where another clock pavilion was built in the mid-1600s. This paper demonstrates how the clocks and other components of the Maydan—the music hall (naqqara-khana), mosques, and coffeehouses—punctuated the flow of time, created a distinctive soundscape, and structured the rhythms of work, prayer, and leisure.
It is widely acknowledged that the transfer of the capital to Isfahan marks a watershed in the development of Safavid art and architecture, but this shift has primarily been explored in terms of ideological transformations and patterns of patronage. Investigating the temporal regime of urban experience exemplifies how the reception and uses of city spaces can be examined in reciprocal relationship to the state agendas.
Lisa Golombek, Curator Emerita, Royal Ontario Museum and Professor Emerita, University of Toronto
Points of Vision: Reception of a Late Safavid Tiled Arcade
Cuerda-seca (haft-rangi) tiles were a favored surface covering for Safavid-era monuments. In the first half of the seventeenth century, cuerda-seca tile panels, stylistically comparable to contemporary paintings and drawings, depicted languid figures engaged in leisurely pastimes. During the last quarter of the century, however, a new type of cuerda-seca panel emerged, characterized by a bold and graphic pictorial style and a wide thematic range that encompassed episodes from Persian literature, battle scenes, rituals, and vignettes of daily life, among other subjects. The new type is exemplified by an ensemble of at least twenty-six arched panels, whose tiles are today dispersed in collections across the world. Two of the arches, now in the Royal Ontario Museum collection, have formed the core of a project that I have co-organized (with Rob Mason) to document and study the ensemble.
Supported by period texts and drawings, as well as twentieth-century archival materials, I have tentatively established that the tiles originally adorned the arcades flanking the garden that led to the Talar-i Tavilah, a pavilion first completed circa 1635 and used in receptions of foreign dignitaries and other ceremonies at the palace precinct of Isfahan. Rather than the ideological significance of their pictorial scenes, this paper examines the local and foreign reception of these tile panels, particularly their role in choreographing visually stimulating processional experiences in time-space. I also investigate the potential shifts in visual and other sensory regimes signalled by the installation of these dazzling, chromatically asymmetrical compositional sequences some fifty years after the Talar-i Tavilah’s original construction.
Saturday, April 17th
8:30 – 10:30 am
Looking at the Margins: A Perspective Change in the Study of Qur’an Manuscripts
The margins, endleaves and interlinear spaces of Qurʾān manuscripts, with their often rich paratextual apparatus and illuminated devices, have seldom fed into the debates on the materiality, transmission and reception of the Qurʾān. Similarly, there are vast regions of the Islamic world traditionally perceived as marginal, where manuscripts of the Holy Book were copied following aesthetic canons, exegetic traditions, and material practices that differed noticeably from the norms codified in the central Islamic lands, and have therefore been largely disregarded by modern scholars. Reaching beyond conventional paleographic and codicological analyses, the papers in this panel explore new approaches to the study of Qurʾān codices, anchoring them in their cultural and religious milieux, and shedding new light on their role within the societies that produced them. From Indonesia to Khurasan, West Africa and al-Andalus, elements such as recitation instructions, illuminated birth certificates, marginalia in Persian and Old Kanembu, letter and word counts, new systems of textual divisions, and innovative attitudes towards ornamentation reflected dramatic shifts in the function and meaning of Qurʾān manuscripts at different junctures in history. As each paper will demonstrate, most of these shifts were either directly or indirectly informed by regime changes, and by political and doctrinal anxieties related to issues of identity, the displacement of communities and elite groups, linguistic plurality, and confrontations with neighboring cultures and foreign imperialist powers.
Dmitry Bondarev, Head of West Africa Research Projects, University of Hamburg
Shifting Regimes, Reshaping Manuscripts: Qur’an Production in the Borno Sultanate
Starting from the 15th century, Borno was a leading Islamic polity in the region of Lake Chad, controlling vast swathes of what is now northeast Nigeria, southeast Niger and west Chad. However, a major turning point in Borno’s history happened in 1808, when its capital city Gazargamu was destroyed by the jihād warriors of the Sokoto Caliphate. This turmoil ultimately led to the fall of the ruling Sayfawa dynasty, the displacement of population and the emergence of a new dynasty of shaikh-rulers. A second blow against the declining Borno sultanate was struck by the Sudanese warlord Rābiḥ al-Zubayr, who controlled Borno from 1893 to 1900. After he was killed by the French troops, Borno disintegrated into smaller emirates. It is not a coincidence that a conspicuous change in Qurʾān production in Borno took place during the turbulent 19th century: manuscripts heavily annotated in Arabic and Old Kanembu—the exegetical language of Borno— gave way to copies devoid of such annotations. Moreover, the layout shifted from wide-spaced to densely written lines, eliminating all possibilities of interlinear additions. This paper will demonstrate that the production of Qurʾāns as a specific domain of Bornese manuscript culture was susceptible to transformations under the pressure of socio-political change.
Umberto Bongianino, Lecturer in Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Oxford
Keeping Up Appearances: Later Qur’ans from al-Andalus
The production of Qurʾānic manuscripts in al-Andalus between the end of the Almohad period (early 13th century) and the fall of the Nasrid Sultanate of Granada (1492) represents an interesting case of doctrinal and aesthetic conservatism. This can be best explained as an attempt to exalt and canonize local traditions— religious and exegetic, as well as artistic and calligraphic—in the face of a crumbling Islamic state and shrinking Muslim community. More often than not, the extra-textual features of these Andalusī Qurʾāns (birth certificates, recitation instructions, endowment notes, etc.) reflect the unaltered pride and unwavering piety of elite groups and scholars, conscious of their illustrious past and hopeful about the future. The manuscripts they commissioned to be donated to mosques and madrasas in Seville, Valencia, Malaga and Granada, or to be kept in their houses as holy heirlooms, are telling and sometimes moving witnesses to their patrons’ world view and their makers’ commitment to their craft. Some of these features, however, combined with prayers and invocations included in the colophons and margins of certain Qurʾāns, also attest to the profound social and doctrinal anxieties felt by the same elite groups and scholars. As this paper will demonstrate, the isolation and difficulties experienced by the Muslims living in the Iberian Peninsula during this turbulent period had important repercussions on the production of Qurʾānic manuscripts in the region.
Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator for Southeast Asia, The British Library
Migrating Manuscript Art: ‘Sulawesi Diaspora’ Styles of Qur’anic Illumination
Over the last few decades, the rich corpus of finely illuminated Qurʾānic manuscripts from maritime Southeast Asia has gradually emerged into view, thanks to an increasing number of publications, exhibitions and reproductions, and this body of manuscripts has responded well to studies based on architectural structure, palette preferences, and the presence of certain characteristic ornamental motifs. Such graphic analyses have revealed the existence of a number of distinctive regional artistic schools, notably in Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, on the north-east coast of the Malay peninsula in the states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Patani, and at various centers in Java.
Another distinctive school of Southeast Asian Qurʾānic illumination can be defined primarily by the strongly geometric character of the double decorated frames, composed of defiantly straight lines (whether horizontal, diagonal or vertical) and circles (full, semi or partial), with a characteristic feature being a pyramidal cluster of circles adorning the vertical borders of the frames. Also typical of this group is the richness of paratexts filling the margins and preliminary and end pages, with variant readings (qirāʾāt), quotations from ḥadīth, commentaries, prayers, notes on numerology, and—critically—detailed colophons, all in Arabic. These manuscripts evidence strong linkages to the Bugis/Makassar courts of south Sulawesi, and yet—unlike the clearly spatially-delineated Aceh, East Coast and Java schools mentioned above— important exemplars are known to have been created in locales scattered throughout the archipelago associated with diaspora communities from south Sulawesi, from Aceh to West Sumatra, and from Kedah to Java and Madura, and from Bima to Ternate and even Mindanao. Hence, this school has been termed the ‘Sulawesi diaspora geometric’ style of Qurʾānic illumination.
The spatial distribution across the Malay archipelago of these ‘Sulawesi diaspora’ Qurʾāns, rather than being restricted to a clearly defined ‘home’ territory, as is the case with all the other known Southeast Asian schools of Qurʾānic art, suggests the impact or interplay of a host of influences of a political as well as theological or artistic nature. The focus of this paper will be on the possible pivotal influence of a cataclysmic event in the south Sulawesi historical landscape, namely the capture of Makassar by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1669, which led to an exodus of princely and noble Makassar families across the archipelago. It is possible that this demographic phenomenon of forced migrations of elites had a lasting impact on the manuscript art of the Malay world, through the formation of Islamicate pedagogical networks which are not otherwise attested in the existing literature on Southeast Asia.
Alya Karame, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, The American University of Beirut
From Listener to Reader: The Qur’an’s Practice in the 11th Century CE
Changes that affected the production of Qurʾāns from the 4th/10th century in the central and eastern Islamic lands had a considerable impact on the use of such manuscripts. The introduction of paper, as well as transformations on the level of script, format and layout, informed new reading and recitation practices within an emerging writerly culture. This paper will show how these formal changes gradually presented the Qurʾān differently to its users, considerably affecting its perception and consumption through its spread to non-elite groups. By looking closely at the newly emerged text divisions, it is possible to see how manuscripts started playing an active role in the reception of the Qurʾānic text, especially in conjunction with the spread of endowed institutions of learning. This process of ‘popularization’ enabled a more active role of the individual reader, reshaped participation in communal reading practices, led to different uses of the manuscript, and reinvented its relation to the body and its engagement in performative practices. The Qurʾān manuscript became an educational tool and a means to create a schedule for learning, reciting and memorizing the Revelation which was not necessarily confined to the scholarly world.
11:00 – 1:00 pm
Islamic Art and Architecture in sub-Saharan Africa: Transcultural Dynamics in the Global Fourteenth Century
Islamic art and architecture in Africa south of the Sahara have historically played a marginal role in the sub-discipline of Islamic art history. Arguing for what might be characterized as an intellectual regime change, this panel presents compelling evidence that sub-Saharan Africa has long been an active participant in exchange networks that linked it with other parts of the greater Islamic world and regions beyond. The papers presented in this panel focus on the fourteenth century, a particularly dynamic period in Africa, an era that experienced political ruptures, celebrated rulers, mercantile opportunities, and the devastation wrought by a worldwide epidemic (i.e., the plague). Through the disciplinary lenses of art history and archaeology, the papers investigate multiple intersections between the local and the global, between short-distance and long-distance relationships. They explore issues of transcultural connectivity as expressed in a variety of media. At a fundamental level, the panel addresses regime change from a epistemological and methodological perspective. Instead of embracing the traditional model of center and periphery that has, in the past, marginalized Africa south of the Sahara, the evidence presented in these papers offers a means for reconceptualizing the Islamic world as a vast and interconnected network of multiple (regional) centers including centers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Raymond Silverman, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
Mamluk Metalwork in West Africa: Material Dialogues in the Fourteenth Century
Though Africa south of the Sahara has little presence in scholarly discourse concerning global exchange before the era of “European hegemony,” there is compelling material evidence that it was a major actor on the global stage during the fourteenth century, a particularly vibrant time. Thinking of regime change, there is ample evidence that gold from West Africa had a considerable impact shaping the economies of the world during this period. Conversely, these interactions were a catalyst for the founding of new polities in West Africa. Trade goods, such as Mamluk metalwork, were incorporated in the visual cultures of African societies, where they played significant roles in articulating social and political status and were associated with the introduction of new technologies and idioms of visual expression. This paper focuses on a number of Mamluk brass bowls and basins that were carried to several sites in what is now central Ghana and northern Nigeria; they speak to West African participation in global networks of exchange. It addresses a number of fundamental questions these objects raise. How and under what circumstances did they leave Egypt and arrive at the sites at which they are located today? What meaning and impact did they have in the societies that adopted them? What can they tell us about long-distance connections and transcultural trajectories of the fourteenth century?
Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, Smuts Postdoctoral Fellow, Center of African Studies, University of Cambridge
Glocalization, Material Culture, Innovation, and Exchange in Pre/Fourteenth-Century West Africa
West Africa has had a significant connection with the Islamic world over several centuries. These interactive networks allowed the exchange of ideas and materials on a global scale. Often, scholars of African history, art history, archaeology, and anthropology among others overemphasize this global influence in understanding aspects of West Africa’s past. As such, the notion of an external stimulus is embraced as a modus operandi for explaining a novel phenomenon, which explicitly undermines African agency. This paper, in contrast, seeks to offer an alternative model, a regime change that emphasizes a dynamic dialogue between the local and global. With a focus on innovation and consumption of material culture, I will adapt the global perspective to discuss the complex connection between early West African communities and the Islamic world. Rather than seeing Islam as the backdrop on which the rest of West African cultural manifestations played out, I argue that the relationship was symbiotic. Therefore, I will discuss pre-Islamic material cultural traditions in parts of West Africa and how the global materials interacted with the local to form a convergence mass of complex behavior.
Timothy Insoll, Al-Qasimi Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter
The Fourteenth Century: An Archaeological Perspective from Islamic Eastern Ethiopia
Recent research at the Islamic site of Harlaa has uncovered significant new evidence for mercantile transcultural connections, particularly between the twelfth to thirteenth centuries. These operated at different levels through local, regional, and international networks, both land and maritime based. Wealth was generated in Harlaa via trade and manufacturing of items such as fine metalwork, glass, shell, and stone beads, shell bracelets, and other worked marine shell. Extensive mining activity also appears to have taken place. Imported materials attest far-flung origins, and dynamic, albeit, indirect contacts; coins from Byzantine northern Greece, Ayyubid and Mamluk Cairo, and Northern Song China; glass from central Asia; carnelian from Iran and Gujarat, western India; glass beads from South India/Sri Lanka, the Middle East (probably Mamluk Egypt) and Central Asia; Chinese porcelain (celadon, whiteware, Qingbai) and Chinese/Southeast Asian stoneware; glazed ceramics from Yemen, Iran, and Egypt. In the fourteenth century, Harlaa is abandoned and a new city develops some 45 km south-east. This is the city of Harar, premier extant centre of Islamic scholarship and tradition in Ethiopia. This paper will address the question of regime change in political, social, and urban contexts, positing possible reasons for why Harlaa was abandoned. Could the move to Harar have been precipitated by plague, increased Islamisation or water stress? Likely acting in combination, these factors are linked with a momentous century in African and Islamic history.
Vera-Simone Schulz, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut
Islamic Art and Architecture along the Swahili Coast: Connectivity, Transcultural Entanglements, and Aesthetic Choices in the Global Fourteenth Century
The Swahili coast has long been understood as a place of encounter between people, artifacts, and materials from sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world, particularly in relation to trans- oceanic trade. Persian ceramics, Chinese porcelain bowls, and other imported items were incorporated into local architectural structures, creating intriguing and multi-layered surfaces that negotiated the site-specific and the transregional, proximity and distance. Still, premodern coastal East Africa is usually marginalized in art histories of the Islamic world. Focusing on the fourteenth century, the time period when Swahili port cities flourished and when major building projects were undertaken, this paper discusses the impact of imported artifacts on the visual and material culture along the Swahili coast, but also the aesthetic choices that were taken by local artists when they responded to them. The paper investigates the notion of regime change on two different levels: first, on an empirical-historical level. Historians have suggested that the ruling family of Kilwa, one of the most important Swahili port cities, changed at the end of the thirteenth century, but this political rupture as represented in art and architecture has received little attention. This paper will consider whether some of the most prominent features in Swahili stone towns could be related to this political regime change. Second, on a methodological level, the paper argues for an intellectual regime change, showing what might be gained in art historical discourse by paying more attention to transcultural dynamics along the Swahili coast.
2:30 – 4:30 pm
Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century Regime Changes in Technologies and Media
One definition of “regime” is the conditions under which a natural, scientific, or industrial process occurs. Beyond the term’s political implications, “regime change” thus can be conceived as an alteration of technology. The nineteenth century in particular witnessed several decisive changes in the processes of creating and disseminating images and objects of art. Recent publications and exhibitions have drawn attention to this period of intense mobilization critiquing the omission of modernity from narratives of Islamic art and architecture. At this time, the rise of photography and the introduction of printing techniques introduced a variety of different ways of image production, transmission, and media exchange in the Muslim world and beyond.
Along these lines, this panel addresses the diversity and impact of new technologies and media in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Islamic visual and print culture by focusing on a variety of regions. The individual papers points out the mobilization of ideas, texts, people, and places with their agents and channels of circulation, and thus touch upon subjects that shed new light on the development of Islamic art in modernity. They examine the mobilization of ideas, texts, people, and places with their agents and channels of circulation, and thus touch upon subjects that shed new light on the development of Islamic art in modernity. More specifically, the authors explore the regime changes in/of Persian book culture and lithography, late Ottoman representations of the Haramayn and photography, image production in periodicals of the early Republican Turkey, and the Senegalese Sufi saint Sheikh Amadu Bamba’s photographic images.
Ulrich Marzolph, Retired Adjunct Professor, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Lithography and Its Impact on Persian Book Illustration in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
Invented shortly before the end of the eighteenth century, the process of printing by way of lithography was introduced to Iran in the early decades of the nineteenth century and was practiced until the middle of the twentieth century. My paper will explore the various “regime changes” connected to this process.
First and foremost, the introduction of lithography dealt a blow to the production of manuscripts as a cultural practice. Lithographed items are multiplied manuscripts, essentially implying the very same traditional techniques. In terms of art, this pertains to both calligraphy and illustration or illumination. In addition, illustrated books, previously only afforded by the “privileged few,” became accessible to larger audiences, thus affecting the social dimension of the books’ audience. Moreover, the introduction of photography resulted in realistic depictions of the ancient rulers and historical monuments based on archaeological findings. In this manner, lithography paved the way for the modern book as a natural and easily accessible combination of text and illustration.
When lithography left the stage towards the middle of the twentieth century, the art had degenerated to such an extent that printing from movable type accompanied by engraved illustrations was a logical successor. In today’s Iran, the traditional manner of lithographic printing by way of transfer paper is all but forgotten. Even so, lithographed illustrations of the Qajar period experience an enthusiastic revival with Iranian artists and the public alike.
Sabiha Göloǧlu, Postdoctoral University Assistant, University of Vienna
Widening the Horizons of Mecca and Medina with Photographic Possibilities
Photographs have distinct processes of production and circulation, as well as indexical qualities compared to other modes of representation, which allows one to perceive the photographic technology and medium as a regime change. In Europe and the Islamic world, the appreciation of photography and the involvement with the medium greatly varied based on individual artists. As in many paintings of landscapes, architecture, and cityscapes, a number of paintings depicting the Islamic holy sites were also completed after photographs or their reproductions. For instance, the French-Algerian painter Étienne (Nasreddine) Dinet and the Ottoman painters Mahmud, Kolağası (Hoca) Ali Rıza, and Mimarzade Mehmed Ali painted Mecca and Medina after photographs and their reproductions.
It is possible to trace the sources of these painters, because only a handful of photographers are known to have taken photographs in the Haramayn in the late nineteenth century. Among them, the photographic oeuvres of the Egyptian army officer Muhammad Sadiq Bey (1832–1902), the Ottoman committee of the Erkān-ı Ḥarbiye (General Military Staff), the Dutch scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936), and the Meccan doctor al-Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ghaffar are the earliest surviving ones and have been available in private and public spheres at least from the 1880s onwards. In this paper, I will examine the circulation of early photographs of Mecca and Medina between their mechanical reproductions, paintings, and lithographs. I will explore this regime change with the possibilities, limits, and uses of photographs compared to earlier modes of representation.
Yasemin Gencer, Affiliate Scholar, Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University
Critical Mass: Photography and Ubiquity in 1920s-Turkish Media
Turkey underwent a fundamental transformation when revolutionary nationalists established a Republic upon the ruins of the expired Ottoman state in 1923. Besides the long list of comprehensive social, economic, and cultural reforms that followed this political change, another, lesser-known regime change took place in the area of visual communication. The periodicals of the 1920s, which constitute primary sources for this investigation, reveal an acute increase in photographic content over the course of this pivotal decade. Other types of visual content published alongside photographs, including cartoons, illustrations, and advertisements, also betray the effects of this acute photographic turn. This panoptic shift or dependence on photographic representation signals the arrival of a new and permanent regime of representation and “knowing” that was contingent on the constant flow of reliable and reproducable images.
Drawing from the wide selection of images circulated in these periodicals, this paper explores the conditions that enabled certain images to ascend to the top of public consciousness and gain ubiquity, notoriety, or fame in the modern age. Specifically, it delineates the unsung processes involved in generating visual ubiquity, including repeating, repurposing, reappropriating, and republishing novel, attractive, or otherwise compelling images. This paper expounds the ways in which photography and print media together shaped expectations surrounding the potentials (and limitations) of visual culture and visual literacy at the dawn of the Turkish Republic.
Allen F. Roberts, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Visual Hagiographies of a Senegalese Sufi Saint
Photography was introduced to Senegal very soon after the technology was available for popular use anywhere in the world. In the 1850s, when an African American entrepreneur named Augustus Washington founded a Daguerreotype studio in Saint-Louis, a coastal city of that had long been of great significance to regional and long-distance trade, urban Africans directed the medium to their own purposes via an emerging visual epistemology. As French colonial control was consolidated through later decades of the 19th century, photography was instrumental to hegemonic purposes. A political regime change as local polities were subsumed by the colony was accompanied by a visual regime change, and especially with publication of a surveillance photo taken in 1913 of Sheikh Amadu Bamba, a Senegalese Sufi saint whose passive resistance to colonial purposes was deemed “subversive” by authorities. Bamba was treated harshly and sent into a seven-year exile to Gabon in 1885. The saint’s own copious writings and those of several influential Senegalese poets explained these harrowing circumstances and the miracles that permitted Bamba to survive. The saint’s 1913 photo soon fostered hagiographies based upon “visual pieties” (after David Morgan) recognized by Bamba’s ardent devotees in features of the enigmatic 1913 picture. Of greatest significance was and remains how the picture proves that during his persecution, Bamba left this world to come into proximity with Allah, whence he returned to bring Baraka to his followers. Profuse production of the image across many media continues to bless homes, businesses, places of worship, and inner-city streets.
5:00 – 7:00 pm
Fragments, Relics, Rubble, Memory
How do objects matter? Answering that question becomes especially urgent in the aftermath of political transitions, as authorities, narratives, and disciplines seek to place objects in new relation to their spatial and temporal contexts. The panel complicates a simple narrative of disruption, reorganization, and consolidation by paying close attention to the multiple actors and materials at work. The papers follow fragments, relics, and rubble as they move through shifting regimes and sites, shaping historical memory and contested historiographies. In the process, they generate new insights and questions about the life and agency of objects. The panel opens with Mikael Muehlbauer’s analysis of a limestone block in the church of Wuqro Cherqos. Tracing the life of this fragment, he illuminates the broader narrative about the changing place of Islam in highland Ethiopia. Michele Lamprakos and Alejandro Cañeque explore how images of, and legends about, martyrs and relics reshaped the topography of Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral in the 16th century at a key moment of transition. They were part of a new narrative that sought to establish the building’s Christian “origin”– a project that is very much alive today. Igor Demchenko calls our attention to the spatially and temporally vast architectural encounter between the Golden Horde and the Russian Empire. He shows that the forgetting of the Golden Horde’s architectural heritage involved not only the large-scale destruction of sites across the Volga and the Black Sea regions but also an ongoing absence within the historiographies of Islamic art. Finally, Timur Hammond turns to the aftermath of Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt. He examines the making of a memorial public, one articulated in relation to new museums, media, and monuments. However, he shows that these commemorative projects raise a set of broader questions about how and for whom objects come to mean.
Igor Demchenko, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia University
Erased Heritage of the Golden Horde: Forgetting and Remembering in Russian/Soviet Historiography
Between the mid-13th and the early 15th cent., the rulers of the Golden Horde built numerous administrative, trade, and religious centers in the Volga Region and in the steppes north and east of the Black Sea. Substantially weakened during Tokhatmysh–Timur War (1386–1395), the Golden Horde fragmented and in the 16th century, its successor states where overtaken by the rising Great Principality of Moscow, which at the beginning of the 18th century evolved into the Russian Empire. With new the territories and people, Moscow acquired numerous architectural monuments, both secular and religious. The obvious Islamic connotations of the Golden Horde architectural morphologies and the memories of the Tatar domination over the East Slavic principalities resulted in either abandonment or complete rebuilding of all Golden Horde urban centers. Occasional steps to conserve the last standing structures (as in the case of Peter the Great initiative to preserve the ruins of Bolghar in the early 18th century) were dwarfed by state sanctioned destruction, which by the end of the 19th century purged most of the Golden Horde heritage from the landscapes of the East European Plain. My presentation will explore the practices of forgetting and remembering the architectural heritage of the Golden Horde in Russian and the Soviet historiography and conclude with reflection upon the scope and scale of erasure still unacknowledged by the historians of Islamic art.
Timur Hammond, Assistant Professor, Syracuse University
Index, Icon, Place: The Politics and Practices of Commemoration Following Turkey’s July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt
This paper seeks to bridge conversations between geography, art history, and architecture by focusing on the aftermath of Turkey’s July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Crucially, the coup attempt’s defeat came to serve as the founding event for a ‘New Turkey,’ a regime organized in relation to new histories, identities, and geopolitical imaginaries. The government and a range of civil society organizations have worked assiduously to document and disseminate a memorial public grounded in the heroism of the events and oriented toward a new utopian future. A key part of this commemorative project has involved the construction of monuments and museums throughout the country, but especially at key sites of the fighting between protestors and the military units attempting to carry out the coup attempt. In this paper, I make two linked arguments: First – and similar to other examples of regime consolidation – these new monuments and museums have mobilized new architectural motifs, public texts, sacred objects, and visual media to render a particular form of remembering hegemonic. Second, however, I argue that paying closer attention to the making of these projects complicates a narrative of ‘authoritarian regimes.’ While these monuments and museums are absolutely central to the consolidation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authority, they are neither wholly distinct from what preceded them nor wholly under the control of central authorities. Paradoxically, understanding ‘New Turkey’ requires paying closer attention not just to what came before but in terms of geographies beyond the nation.
Michele Lamprakos and Alejandro Cañeque, Associate Professors, University of Maryland-College Park
Martyrs, Relics, and Muhammad’s Shinbone: De-Islamicizing the Mosque-
Cathedral of Cordoba in the 16th Century
During the “reconquest” of the Iberian peninsula, replacement of the Islamic symbolic order happened gradually, following major campaigns (11th, 13th, and late 15th centuries). In the early stages, Friday mosques were seized, ritually cleansed, and consecrated as cathedrals; some, but not all, were demolished and replaced by new buildings. Only in the final stage, following the conquest of Granada in 1492, do we see a concerted effort to erase the Islamic imprint in cities across the peninsula. Cordoba’s former great mosque – that preeminent symbol of Umayyad prestige and power – survived, but in a radically altered form: a choir and presbytery were built in the middle, and the surrounding fabric was progressively christianized.
This paper focuses on a key example: the 10th century mihrab and maqsura, the most famous and symbolic part of the mosque. Since the building’s conversion in 1236, this area had housed the sagrario, the local parish church and tabernacle. Now, in the third quarter of the 16th century, the sagrario was moved: a new chapel was created, adorned with frescos of Christian martyrs from the Roman and Islamic periods. At this time, all over Spain, martyrs and relics were being used to authenticate an ancient and continuous Christian presence on the peninsula, part of the wider revitalization of the ideal of martyrdom in Europe. Meanwhile, the mihrab and maqsura were discredited. Certain anti-Islamic legends were revived and applied to the mosque, linking it to the life and death of the Prophet Muhammad: in particular, the idea that his shinbone was buried in the mihrab. As images of martyrs populated the new sagrario, the mihrab was linked to their antithesis, the Prophet Muhammad, and identified with his shinbone – a kind of anti-relic.
Mikael Muehlbauer, Porter Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University
From Stone to Dust: The Life of the Kufic Inscribed Frieze of Wuqro Cherqos in Tigray, Ethiopia
Until 2010 (when a careless tourist broke it into pieces), a curious Kufic-inscribed sandstone block greeted those who entered the narthex of the 11th century church of Wuqro Cherqos in East Tigray, Ethiopia. My paper identifies the origin of this long misunderstood fragment and presents it in the longue durée, from its architectural placement in the great mosque of a Fatimid trading colony to its later medieval use as a chancel arch in the church of Wuqro Cherqos, and finally its reception in the modern era. In telling the story of the life of this stone fragment, a microcosm is illustrated in order to reveal the larger picture of Islam’s changing reception in Ethiopia, from the middle ages to the 21st century.
I begin by placing the inscribed stone in its original context as part of an inscribed arch (possibly the miḥrāb) in the great mosque of a settlement in Tigray – when the region was Fatimid-aligned and the church of Wuqro Cherqos was built under Egyptian protection (10th or 11th centuries CE). I then trace how, after northern Ethiopia emerged as a centralized power under the Zagwe dynasty, the inscribed arch was spoliated and used in a Christian context. Placed as the chancel in Wuqro Cherqos, it took on new meaning as a luxurious liturgical threshold akin to the Egyptian and Indian silks that hung alongside it. Lastly, I show how, after the arch came apart in the late 1990s, modern Ethiopian scholars promoted the remaining Arabic inscribed fragment as an ancient Ethiopian inscription, up to its final erasure in 2010.