The practice of portraiture amongst members of Ottoman society has been well documented in studies on painting, drawing, and, more recently, photography. Yet there remains much to be said about printed examples. With the growing popularity of printing practices in Ottoman contexts during the late 18th century, a variety of engraved portraits began to appear in printed Arabic books published by non-Muslim minorities. By the mid- to late 19th century, these kinds of impressions, specifically photo-engravings, woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, of authors frequented the frontispieces of Arabic books published at private presses in cities like Beirut and Cairo, which were hotbeds for the intellectual debates of the Arab Nahda (renaissance).

Forging a new path in the study of portraiture in Islamic societies, this paper explores the resurgent popularity of the author portrait genre in Nahda-period publications. The study will consider technical limitations and innovations by examining the varied technologies used at local presses to produce such engravings, and their possible contemporaneous Western sources. Folded into this investigation is a study of how printed author portraits interfaced with the then-new pictorial modes of oil painting and photography, and the ways in which these examples of print culture raise important questions about the commodification and shifting notions of authorship during this period. These printed portraits thus allow for a consideration of how painting, photography, and printing were interconnected and what that meant for new perspectives on technology, visuality, and knowledge production.


At the Furusiyya Art Foundation in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, a luxury dagger presents to the beholder a striking blend of eastern Christian and Islamic visual languages. Its ornate scabbard and hilt display an Arabic inscription, motifs drawn the Islamic princely cycle, and an icon of a Christian warrior saint. Produced in the Greater Syria region in the twelfth or thirteenth century, the dagger belongs to a period that has traditionally been described as an era of unrelenting crusade and jihad, in which Christian-Muslim relations were governed by competing ideologies of religious superiority. Within the past few decades, however, this interpretive tradition has come under increased scrutiny. Scholars such as Oleg Grabar and Eva Hoffman, whose work considers the social effects of a shared Mediterranean visual culture, have revealed how the binary logic of crusade and jihad conceals the fragility of distinctions between Christians and Muslims. Drawing on both approaches, this paper considers how the Furusiyya dagger operated as an agent of exchange within a region noted for its extreme religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Arguing that the dagger was designed to operate within multi-cultural audiences, it traces how “common” imagery communicated different messages to its diverse audience members. By focusing on audience legibility, this paper reveals how the mobility of objects, people, and motifs generated a proliferation of messages, replicating the tensions between exchange and transcendent principles that characterized cross-cultural contacts in the period as a whole.


The astounding mix of people in the Holy Land was a feature no medieval visitor failed to notice. The heterogeneity occurred across multiple dimensions: religious, linguistic, ethnic and cultural. How did residents and visitors navigate its extreme multiculturalism? Could they manage to ignore difference? Was it possible to choose not to see the Other? To render difference invisible?

The region’s aesthetic richness benefited from its hybrid character and the complex layering of history that was (and still is) everywhere. In that environment, some medieval viewers reacted with indifference, some with utter disgust. For others, looking--specifically looking at artistic monuments—promoted cultural exchange, mediating between the expected and unexpected. Curiosity and a quest for beauty could help viewers accommodate aesthetic and religious sensibilities different from their own. Cultural barriers intended to divide were regularly crossed.

What was and is the impact of the region’s diversity on works of art? Where were and are borders drawn and where traversed? Given current disciplinary and political divides, what is required of us today in studying these monuments? This paper will respond to recent scholarship that takes up these questions, while reflecting upon the experience of crossing borders in organizing an international exhibition on Medieval Jerusalem for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Countless Ottoman envoys traveled east and west to many foreign courts throughout the early modern period. But these officials rarely wrote about their voyage and mission in individual, personal accounts until the eighteenth century. This paper will focus on one such account from the early nineteenth century, whose extant copies are held currently in collections in Istanbul and Ann Arbor. This illustrated sefaretname details the diplomatic experience of Yasincizade Seyyid Abdülvehhab Efendi, Mahmud II’s ambassador to the court of the Qajar ruler Fath Ali Shah in 1811. The paintings it contains depict a number of posts seen by the Ottoman delegation between Constantinople and Tehran. In addition, it includes portraits of the ambassador and other members of his retinue. Through a close and comparative reading of this account with others depicting contemporary cross-cultural encounters, I hope to raise broad questions about diplomacy and empire, and more specific ones about mobility and cultural difference.


A trilogy of Ottoman albums at the BnF captures the dynamic nature of urban compilation in the late eighteenth century. The albums feature paintings dating from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries from the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Empires, which traversed imperial borders before being bound in Istanbul. This talk, however, explores border crossing through this trilogy on a much smaller scale: the composition of album openings and the temporal intervention of overpainting. First, openings that pair single-figure portraits accentuate the interpretive power of juxtapositions drawn across the gutter. By deftly manipulating the composition of an opening, the compiler drew numerous comparisons between Ottoman characters and foreign beauties. Sometimes culturally insightful, other times comedic, or narrative-driven, these visual conversations illuminate how an Ottoman compiler played with notions of cultural and urban identities. Drawing from themes in popular poetry and storytelling, this non-royal trilogy makes a fitting visual aid to such literary recitations, or as a curated testament to its compiler’s erudite background. Secondly, eighteenth-century Ottoman painters transgressed distinct temporal borders in this trilogy. They contributed creative "updates," overpainting older Ottoman works and re-integrating them into the later aesthetic mode prevailing at the time of the albums’ compilation. Selectively applying their skills, Ottoman painters deliberately preserved the original figures, but inserted contemporary backgrounds around them—as if to highlight later interventions as composite endeavors, rather than hide them. Together the border crossings discussed here illustrate the modes of consumption that Ottomans enjoyed through the diverse paintings available on the urban market.


Inasmuch as the events of 2010 and 2011 ushered in tremendous shifts in political consciousness across the Mashreq and Maghreb, they too increased the mass movements and migrations of humanity. That Maghrebi spheres of cultural production have sought to document and problematize these seismic transformations is undeniable. While narratives of hardship, stagnation, and political struggles undergird most analyses of the post-revolutionary Maghreb and discourses of migration, this essay seeks instead to demonstrate how the visual strategies of contemporary artists render the traumas of dislocation – both real and metaphysical – and in turn, engender a politics and aesthetics of placelessness. This essay probes into the placeless nature of not only the artists’ liminal operations but also explores the conceptual methods through which the tensions of migrancy are manifest. Yet, the question remains: How does the trope of the border inform the creative expressions of not only entrapment, but endless mobility? In what ways do these artists adopt visual praxes that are politically engaged? How do fraught and layered transnational narratives of migration speak to the complexities of placelessness and displacement? How are the figure and position of the migrant visually treated in their works? Commanding a transregional and liminal visuality, and guided by the works of artists such as Bouchra Khalili, Yto Barrada, Kader Attia, Driss Ouadahi, Zineb Sedira, and Moufida Fedhila, among others, this essay theorizes the political junctures and paradoxes of place/placelessness, and the transnational networks of empathy and solidarity in which these artists’ works are inscribed.


In the 1380s and 90s, under the patronage of Archbishop Pedro Tenorio, an unusual stone screen was added to the North, West and South sides of the choir of the Cathedral of Toledo. The screen contains an unprecedented series of fifty-six panels representing Old Testament narrative scenes drawn from the Bible and apocryphal texts. It has been suggested that the didactic intention of the screen was to reify the biblical text, perhaps to persuade Toledan Jews or recent converts of the inevitability of the advent of Christ, in the context of Nicholas of Lyra’s contemporary and widely read Postilla literalis, a work that attempts to reconcile patristic and rabbinical commentaries on the Bible.

I will argue that one panel depicting an apocryphal scene of Cain’s murder of Abel adapts an illustration from a Kalila wa-Dimna manuscript, no longer extant, but which must have been in Toledo when the text was translated to Castilian in 1251. The story of the Lion and the Bull, typologically intermingled with that of Cain and Abel, provides an intertextual footing for the principal rabbinical and patristic exegetical preoccupations with the biblical story: the absence of remorse and lack of punishment. These concerns suggest a contemporary, local context where two brothers, or two reliable friends, are made to become enemies: the Church and the Jewish community, violently decimated with external encouragement while the construction of the choir screen was underway. Archbishop Pedro Tenorio, patron of the choir screen and responsible for the Jewish aljamas in his archbishopric, was immensely careful in his iconographic choices for this project, suggesting a gesture of reconciliation to those who might understand.


In November 1925 the popular magazine, Haftalık Mecmua (“The Weekly Journal”) inaugurated Turkey’s first “Beautiful and Robust Child Contest.” The competition called upon readers to submit photographs of their offspring for light-hearted, playfully comparative consideration. Over the course of the next eight months the magazine published a total of four hundred individual pictures of healthy youngsters from across the country until the winners were announced in June 1926. Enticing initiatives such as this inspired other weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly journals to follow suit with their own campaigns, which quickly adapted to include far greater demographics. For instance, between October 1924 and May 1925 Resimli Ay (“The Illustrated Monthly”) gradually published the portrait photographs of almost two hundred of their loyal subscribers. Whereas in June 1927 the journal Aylık Mecmua (“The Monthly Digest”) began including double-page spreads of fifty reader portraits in every issue. Whether such efforts are viewed as marketing gimmicks or mere outreach, they succeeded in mobilizing many otherwise passive readers to double as contributors.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the photograph in motivating and empowering an audience to create and even curate their own public image with the help of the popular press. These photo-centric ventures present unique opportunities for observing microcosms of self-referential communities filtered through mass media. The audience’s active and enthusiastic participation in these visual, photographic arrangements underscores the emergence of a mutually beneficial feedback loop between people and press that is carried out through the premeditated and calculated act of sharing a photograph.


Sparked by the arrival of a family of Muslim scholars and subsequent period of conversions to Islam in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Zara peoples in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso developed a masquerade practice called Lo Gbe, or “white masks.” This allowed Zaras to continue dancing masks but tailor the practice to their ideas of what it meant to be Muslim. Today, Zaras continue to dance white masks in public spectacles celebrating the life of a distinguished deceased Muslim.

This study poses the question, “What does Lo Gbe offer Zara Muslims, that they should continually choose to invest in it?” Zaras have tailored white masks to their history in Bobo-Dioulasso and to their faith, creating an aesthetic attentive to regional and global bonds. If Islam has absorbed Zaras into the ummah, fostering a sense of belonging to a global community, then Lo Gbe practice has validated that Muslim identity while affirming Zaras’ close bonds with their regional community.

Muslim creativity and Islam are habitually overlooked within the substantial body of literature on African masquerade, leading to an inadequate, even flawed, understanding of its art forms. This is especially dire since masquerade objects form the foundation of African art history’s canon. More broadly, ignoring the discourses surrounding Islam impoverishes our understanding of African and Islamic art histories. This study is an effort to rectify the situation and in the process, demonstrate the potential elasticity of both fields, thus contributing to a more extensive and inclusive conception of art historical practice.


Kalamkari, a word with Persian origins that means “pen-work,” refers to cotton textiles that have been painted with dyes using a bamboo pen. Despite the origins of the term, the technique of painting cotton cloth with dyes was not a Persian import, but a South Asian invention that had been eagerly imitated by craftspeople throughout the world. The medium of kalamkari has always embodied a tension between its local origins and its distant travels. As a cloth painted with dyes, kalamkari textiles grew out of the unique ecology of India’s Coromandel Coast, but as a mobile fabric, its visual motifs encompassed the far reaches of the globe. Narratives of South Asian textile history typically frame the rise of British imperialism at the end of the eighteenth century as an aesthetic disruption that led to the erasure of historical textile techniques and motifs. Yet the active, border-crossing mobility of South Asian cotton textiles made possible a thriving afterlife of kalamkari in geographically disparate regions throughout western and Southeast Asia. This paper seeks to reunite the corpus of South Asian kalamkari textiles with their Persian and Southeast Asian descendants in order to demonstrate that the interregional transmission of textiles for which the medieval and early modern periods are known did not end with European intervention. A more continuous, transcultural history of painted cotton textiles that extends into the nineteenth century reinstates kalamkari in its significant role as a shape-shifting cloth that both absorbed and transmitted the diverse aesthetics of far-flung Islamic lands


It is well known that Islamic textiles circulated in western Europe. Learning more about the specific ways that Islamic textiles circulated is not easy, however, because it is often difficult to determine the precise origins of a particular textile described in an inventory, whether it is Byzantine or Islamic, Syrian or Egyptian or Spanish. Indeed, even when actual textiles are preserved in treasuries, scholars are often unable to determine their provenience definitively. In this paper, I examine inventories and other documents from thirteenth-century England in order to identify textiles that are potentially Islamic in origin, judging by their materials, manufacturing technique, and iconography, as well as the descriptive terms applied to them (like “Saracen”). These medieval records describe the gifting, storage, and reuse of particular textiles in English royal and ecclesiastical contexts and therefore cast light on the use of Islamic textiles in England. I demonstrate that both Islamic (and other eastern) objects and the English works of art they inspired were not just hidden away in treasury vaults, but were also actively incorporated into rituals of church and state. As a result of this public display, these objects were visually accessible to a broad and large audience of medieval English viewers and these works of art came to be associated with the very nature of royal and ecclesiastical power in thirteenth century England.


A most useful source for historians wishing to reconstruct the capital of the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century is Hafız Hüseyin Ayvansarayi’s The Garden of the Mosques. Completed in 1780, this work meticulously lists and describes the major and minor Islamic monuments of Istanbul at that time. An even more meticulously annotated translation of the Ottoman-Turkish text has been produced by Howard Crane, who placed each of the structures in its urban context and provided biographical information about the personages mentioned. While the title suggests that the work includes only mosques, it also describes medreses, tombs, Sufi lodges, and, most importantly for the present purpose, bathhouses.

This research project makes use of The Garden of the Mosques in order to map, with the help of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), the location and distribution of hamams as a significant urban amenity and socio-economic institution within Istanbul’s cityscape. An earlier study of similar nature—combining GIS with data extracted from a 1752 Ottoman archival source that lists in great detail all of the city’s male hamam employees—already exists. Therefore, a comparison between these two will allow us to consider the following questions: How did the urban landscape and the hamams’ place within it change over time? What new questions and answers may emerge from a study on the same monuments within the time-span of a few decades? And, on a methodological level, how does the different nature of the sources influence the processes of digitally mapping architectural and urban heritage?


During the first half of the twentieth century, archaeological excavations led to the discovery of several early Islamic urban palaces, known as the House of Governance or the Dār al-Imāra, in cities such as Kufa, Jerusalem and Amman. Previously only known through textual sources, the excavation of the seventh century palace of the Umayyad governor Ziyad b. Abihi in Kufa, Iraq, in the 1930s provided the discipline with both a well preserved and well documented site. This coincided with the Islamic architectural field engaging in writing narratives for early Islamic architecture which centrally positioned the urban palace alongside the mosque as seminal architectural expressions of Islamic culture. Both World Wars seriously disrupted this initiative throughout the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, which left the Dār al-Imāra an unfinished endeavor; acknowledged as critical to the history of Islamic architecture, referenced in textual sources yet mostly invisible due to the incomplete archaeological record. The intention of this paper is to examine and chart the boundaries of knowledge vis a vis the Dār al-Imāra by approaching the space of governance in Islam from a historical perspective while reconciling available archeological evidence for the early Dār al-Imāra. Through an examination of the palace at Kufa, alongside other select case studies, alternative methodologies which borrow from the discipline of early Islamic history will be leveraged to challenging paradigms of architectural reconstruction and address the Dār al-Imāra as unfinished business of Islamic architectural historians and archaeologists.


Silk textiles have never been so numerous as they are today in Ethiopia. Each church has ubiquitous textile hangings distinguishing the altar space from that of the laity. Luxury silks are still imported from the same locales such as Greece, India and Egypt, as in the medieval period. Since few medieval silks remain from Ethiopia, I here attempt to account for this historical gap. By synthesizing later travelers' accounts, archeological finds, documents from the Cairo Geniza and low relief sculpture, in addition to surviving textile fragments, I here attempt the first reconstruction of lost wall hangings in Ethiopia, as they existed in the 10th and 11th centuries. I argue that in this early period, luxury textiles were imported from Egypt and India through Fatimid-aligned trading colonies in East Tigray. Additionally I will show how these Islamic textiles inspired the low relief ornamental programs of these early churches for a socio-liturgical end.


This paper will discuss the role of public inscriptions in the architectural patronage of one of the most notorious governors in Ottoman history—Tepedelenli Ali Pasha. For more than three decades (1788-1822), this individual ruled over the coastal region of what is now western Greece and Albania—once a heavily-contested border zone between the Venetians and the Ottomans. In order to consolidate his authority over a population that was incredibly diverse in terms of language, tribal affiliation, and religion, Ali Pasha set out on an ambitious program to construct dozens of architectural complexes including mosques, palaces, military fortifications, dervish lodges, and even Orthodox Christian monasteries.

I will begin this talk with an overview of the established rules of decorum governing the creation of public texts within the Ottoman Empire, and then examine how Ali Pasha seems to have defied these standards at every turn. Most significantly, this paper will examine the architectural epigraphy and insignia found in the city gates and fortifications of the governor’s capital in Ioannina and the ex-Venetian port city of Preveza. I demonstrate that these decorative programs were rather heterodox in that they featured inscriptions in both Ottoman Turkish and demotic Greek verse and also clearly responded to visual traditions established by neighboring Venetian rivals. As a coda, I will reflect on the immediate aftermath of Ali Pasha’s downfall at the hands of the sultan’s men, when the succeeding governor appointed by the central government ripped out these inscriptions and replaced them with the imperial monogram (tuğra)—a clear act of damnatio memoriae. In this way, this paper seeks to document an unusual case study in which one provincial power-holder attempted to inscribe his personal brand of politics into the local topography, challenging conventions of patronage established in Istanbul.


From their initial period of study, the transculturation to which the decoration of the earliest Ghurid monuments in India bears witness was evident. The extent to which one Indian technique, that of post-carved brick, had both previously infiltrated the Ghaznavid heartlands, and subsequently spread across dynastic and geographic borders has not been realized, however.

The intense experimentation and dynamic innovation in the architecture of the subcontinent is visible in the liminal area between the Ghurid Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, at the tombs of Khalid Walid and Shaykh Sadan Shahid (late 12th century), both of which employ post-carved brick.

Even before these, however, its use is visible on one of the earliest surviving Ghaznavid monuments, the minaret of Mas‘ud III. Subsequently before its appearance in Muslim India, it was used on four other Ghurid monuments. More surprisingly, the mutual receptivity of eastern Iranian and South Asian architectural elements can also be seen in two monuments of the late 12th century at Kuhna Urgench.

Muslim rulers in India generally preferred stone as a more lasting sign of their beneficence. There are only two later prominent uses of post-carved brick in India, on the Rukn-i ‘Alam in Multan, and, even further afield in the Ganges basin, at the Adina Mosque in Pandua.

The study of these and other examples from the corpus will attempt to show how the translational dynamics of this technique reveal novel approaches to architectural patronage and vocabulary.


The mtalawanda, or clog sandal, is a ubiquitous if unexplored form on the Swahili coast. Comprised of a platform sole to which is attached a post and knob that would be gripped between the big and second toes, these sandals are frequently referenced as a visual symbol of social status of the ruling elite. The form is derived from India, where this type of sandal is associated with Hindu deities. It was appropriated and given new meaning when it was introduced to the majority Muslim populations along the coast of east Africa between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries through trade networks along the Indian Ocean. The social and material life of this type of object raises questions about how objects circulate and how this circulation becomes a space where cultural meaning is constructed. When and where did these sandals originate? To what extent are these origins tied to the status of these objects among the peoples on the Swahili coast? In what ways does object mobility collapse or solidify temporalities and geographies connected by the Indian Ocean? To answer these questions, this paper will present comparative research between the Indian and east African forms and connect this contextual and ethnological analysis with the recent shift towards oceanic studies and object mobility engaged by scholars such as James Clifford, Prita Meier, and Sugata Bose. Through an investigation of the history, social functions, and circulation of these sandals, this study calls into question traditional area studies boundaries by implicating larger networks of exchange in the construction of local and translocal identity on the Swahili coast.


Reductive, pervasive paradigms in scholarship often treat medieval Islamic culture as a locus of tolerant coexistence or as a clash of civilizations. The prevailing narrative of Christians, Jews, Sunnis, and Shi’is participating in a shared urban life and working in the same artistic mode is certainly a part of the story of medieval Islamic architecture. However, architecture could also act as a stage for competing claims of political legitimacy and as a battleground for local sectarian conflicts.

The Fatimid era is often held up as an example of artistic efflorescence occurring in concert with multicultural tolerance. The notable exception given to this narrative is the reign of the “mad” caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996-1021), who destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and most of the churches in his land. This paper explores Fatimid architecture in Jerusalem in the period immediately following al-Hakim’s destruction of the famous church. Looking at reconstructions, repairs, and demolitions on the Islamic Haram al- Sharif and the Christian Holy Sepulcher, it explores the resurgence of architectural patronage in the early eleventh century. In particular, al-Hakim’s son, al-Zahir’s (r. 1021-1036) renovations of the Aqsa mosque brought increased prominence and renewed building projects to the Haram al-Sharif, in marked contrast to the treatment of the city by the previous Abbasid rulers. This paper argues that rather than being purely destructive, al-Hakim’s incursion in the city acted as a catalyst for his successor’s investment in the city -- suggesting a constructive counterpart to medieval architectural destruction.


During a period of relative peace between two imperial rivals in the late sixteenth century, hundreds of travelers from across the Holy Roman Empire made their way to Constantinople. Whether serving in the retinue of a Habsburg ambassador to the Ottoman court or stopping over on their way to the Holy Land, subjects of the emperor found food, wine, shelter, and good company in the confines of the Habsburg ambassador’s residence. This multi-lingual and religiously diverse group of noblemen, humanists, artists, cooks and messengers living in close quarters left behind over fifty albums of decorative papers, signatures, costume images, genre scenes, and city views. This paper focuses on the Austrian nobleman David Ungnad, who traveled to Constantinople in 1572 to deliver the yearly Habsburg tribute payment to the Ottoman emperor and returned a year later to serve as Habsburg resident ambassador between 1573 and 1578. These two stays in the Ottoman Empire coincided with the production of several important costume albums, sketchbooks, and friendship albums. This paper examines these objects, their creators, and their owners within the context of diplomatic activities between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires.


The standard narrative of the history of modern art in Indonesia is driven by continuing colonial tensions, manifested in the event of Polemik Kebudayaan or the Great Cultural Debate in 1935. Claire Holt (1967) briefly notes that the role of Islam was overshadowed by other aspects of this cultural debate. Subsequently, Islam was rarely touched upon in the discourse of modern art in Indonesia and its role in the visual arts was diminished in popular and scholarly discussions until its visible emergence in the 1970s through the exploration and incorporation of Quranic calligraphy in abstract painting. I argue, however, that local interpretations of Islamicate visual traditions have continuously appeared in the works of modern Indonesian artists. Agus Djaja’s panting of a street performance titled “Kuda Lumping” or “Horse Dance” (1950) shows how subtle traces of Islamicate traditions and Sufi connections are maintained in numerous artistic forms in Java. However, the framing of this painting in the history of modern art in Indonesia shows how the presence of Islam and Islamicate visual traditions in Indonesia were relegated to the background and overshadowed by other colonial or nationalist narratives that were promoted by the ruling elites. This paper explores how the systematic colonial suppression of Islam and the growing influence of the Islamic reformist movement in the early twentieth century led to the discursive absence of Islam in the formative period of modern art in Indonesia.


This presentation looks to Rafa Nasiri’s (1940-2013) printmaking practice and its early experimentation with printed Arabic script as the locus from which he stimulated and historicized the contemporary graphic arts movement in Iraq. Although conversant in pan-Arab and international socialist realist strategies from his training in printmaking at the Institute of Fine Arts in Beijing (1958-1963), Nasiri’s work in the late 1960s offers experiments with global abstract expressionism and local religious prints. The need for educational programs and publications on the arts of Arab printing led Nasiri to travel around Iraq gathering popular printed textiles. Nasiri collected block printed (hafir al-tarsh) black and white calligraphic banners, which are carried in the streets during ‘Ashura and the holy month of Muharram, when mass pilgrimage processions overtake Shi‘i Muslim shrines in the cities of Karbala and Najaf. He then cut these popular prints and their pious poetic verses into separate cartouches and adhered them directly onto his abstract works.

Drawing upon communal rituals and public ceremonies moored Nasiri’s contemporary graphic art practice within Iraq’s historic printing technologies and social and religious practices. The collage-print series offered visual venerations of the Battle of Karbala (680 AD) as colorfully abstracted desert landscapes. Nestled within their references to that catastrophic landscape, the Shi‘i readymade prints associated Nasiri’s works with the ancient battle and its religious performances of dissent against injustice and oppression. By imprinting his compositions with prefabricated calligraphic texts, Nasiri elicited collective memories of Karbala and created a representational strategy counter to the new Baathist regime’s use of populist imagery. These works thus show how Rafa Nasiri marshaled Iraq’s historic printing technologies and social traditions to depict popular expressions of the metaphoric horizons of Karbala.


Over the course of Emperor Akbar’s long reign (1556–1605), the Mughal imperial workshop produced an exceptionally high volume of manuscripts, many of which were illustrated with opaque watercolor paintings that took many days—and sometimes weeks—to complete. The workshop was staffed accordingly: from the 1580s onward, over one hundred painters found employ at the Mughal court, and the overwhelming majority of these artists worked in a collaborative capacity. This paper combines network visualization with concepts drawn from educational theory and social network analysis (SNA) to analyze patterns of artistic collaboration and learning across several manuscript projects of the later sixteenth century. I here argue that the particular structure of the workshop network facilitated numerous players’ participation in the production of a shared practice. This latter point has implications for how the formation of an imperial Mughal painting style during Akbar’s reign is today conceived. The use of these approaches also bears on contemporary understanding of Mughal skill and mastery as strictly individualized, innate, and artisanal in nature; rather, this paper will contend that these attributes were cultivated by and within the broader community of practice and that the achievement of skill and mastery was also dependent upon one’s capacity to regulate the vast workshop enterprise.


Photography in Iran transformed from a luxury limited to the court into an agent of social and political change in just fifty years. Photographs of political events were distributed as picture postcards directly after these events took place, thereby not only documenting, but also influencing the outcome of the political process later termed "Constitutional Revolution." This was only possible due to the advancement of printing technology. Not only were photographs circulated on printed postcards, but they also inspired, accompanied, and complimented lithographic prints. Therefore, print, photography, and politics in the late Qajar era cannot be understood in separation.

This becomes clear in the life and work of Seyyed Abd al-Rahim Kashani, who was the main editor and publisher of the satirical Constitutionalist journal Aʾīna-yi Ghaybnamā (“The Revealing Mirror”) and who also published several series of postcards depicting revolutionary events. He was involved in the political events himself, first as the head of a revolutionary group and later as a parliamentarian in both the Qajar and Pahlavi parliaments. In my paper I will analyze Kashani's postcards along the image program of his lithographed journal. I will contextualize them locally and globally by explaining in which ways they adhered to or differed from the royalist and Constitutionalist publications of the time in Iran and by analyzing them as part of the global phenomenon of the “Postcard Craze.”


Totalitarian regimes in the Middle East often use a common strategy to enhance legitimacy and control by employing art and architecture as weapons for the reconstruction of histories, national identities, and collective memories. Iranian and Iraqi governments used similar strategies after a war that started on September 22, 1980 and lasted for eight years. The invasion occurred by the Ba’athist army led by the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for geo-political and territorial gain, about a year and a half from the establishment of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. During the time Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, called Iranians to the war fronts for the sake of defense. In 1988, the war ended with a ceasefire and a total victory was never achieved, however, both governments claimed their national victories through the representation of monumental architecture and appropriation of sacred sites on the two sides of the border.

This research explores and compares the construction of two national monuments that contributed to the representation of ‘imagined victories’ in Iraq and Iran. The paper compares and analyzes Victory Arch (1989) built in Baghdad and the replica of Khorramshahr Mosque (2010) built in Garden Museum of the Sacred Defense in Tehran. Each monument represents ‘victory’ and claims triumph through using a different ideological rationale. In the Iranian case, victory is claimed from the perspective of defending the country and the resurrection of the culture of martyrdom, while in the Iraqi case, victory is claimed in pursuit of Arab Nationalism. The study explores how these countries consumed histories, collective memories, and ideological values to reconstruct national identities as a mean to maintain control over the nations. It also shows the ways in which boundaries of political thought and ideological order intersect in representing imagined victories. Eventually, the research contributes to spatial practices of representation, and reconstruction of histories and memories in the larger context of the contemporary Middle East.


Between 1956 and 1983, there has been a short-lived period of state-funded research and book production on modern Arab art in the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on the artistic milieu of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. This paper offers a look on the framing of modern Arab art by two Soviet historians—Anatoly Bogdanov and Boris Veimarn—and interrogates their method of analysis and critique, especially in light of the discursive distinctions they made when addressing early twentieth century Arab art, versus art produced in the second half of the century, i.e. post-independence from colonial and mandate powers.

In writing a modern Arab art history, both authors construct an ‘othering’ of the West, and frame Arabs as political and ideological allies in a common struggle against a capitalist rival. I argue, however, that even in conceiving the Arabs as proponents of a shared political cause—at times too sweepingly so—these scholars, guided by a state-sanctioned agenda, often fail to consider the particularities of the forces that drove the development of regional art. This is especially evident in their discussion of work produced in the second half of the century, as both authors are quick to assume a scornful stance towards Arab art makers when the latter deviate from the method of representation officially adopted by the Soviet Union—namely that of Realism.


This paper focuses on a unique, yet incomplete, manuscript detailing the travels and deeds of Hadım Yusuf Paşa (d. 1614), who left Istanbul in 1602 to Baghdad where he was to take up his gubernatorial post. When he was appointed to Baghdad—a post he seems to have been unable to take in the end—the frontier region of Basra and Baghdad had been beset by a number of uprisings. The frontiers of both the Ottoman and Safavid empires was prime rebel real estate in that it afforded would-be insurgents and local powerholders a liminal geo- political space from which to wrangle and agitate for regional control. A sense of political unrest, particularly in the frontiers of the empire, permeates this text—a hybrid work which merges travelogue with a campaign logbook—while it seeks to highlight the vizier’s audacity and piety. Most likely illustrated in Baghdad or its broader hinterland, this work can be contextualized in the broader expansion of the base of patronage (both in the Ottoman capital and in the provinces), and the cultural and artistic flourishing in Baghdad. An intimate account of Yusuf Paşa’s travels and deeds, this work attempts to legitimate his tenuous position in Baghdad.


Since 2010, the Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative (YMDI) has made over 200 manuscripts that are held in private repositories in Yemen available online, through the Princeton Library’s digital portal. While some date to the medieval period, many were copied in the twentieth century, which points to the robust character of scribal practices in the Southern Arabian Peninsula that were sustained until quite recently. Although the YMDI was initiated before the start of the current conflict in Yemen, it is clear that the project has taken on new meaning in recent years, providing access to manuscripts that are currently inaccessible to most researchers. This paper treats the challenges and opportunities of studying Zaydi manuscripts, and particularly their rebindings, through an electronic interface, toggling between data-driven approaches and close readings to assess their materiality as a corpus.


Ottoman calligrapher Mehmed Şefik completed a luxury primer of Arabic calligraphy (elifba cüzü) in 1852-1853. The manuscript is currently at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and it is an example of a popular nineteenth-century Ottoman type of illuminated work. Art historical focus on nineteenth-century Ottoman culture has tended to follow questions of imperial identity, the modernization project, and development of oil painting—leaving calligraphic works, such as this manuscript, by the sidelines, as if they were outdated forms of art. This paper argues that calligraphic arts were very much of their time, responding to their own particular historical moment and fashioning it at the same time. This is evident in two ways: first, in the particular layout of the pages of the codex, which follows both older manuscripts for popular piety and French alphabet primers (and the literacy drive that brought them over). Second, the other projects Mehmed Şefik worked on demonstrate that calligraphy was essential to Ottoman imperial ambitions, since he executed the architectural inscriptions on the gates to the Ministry of War, and repaired the inscriptions at the Great Mosque in Bursa alongside French architects. The border between traditional Ottoman arts and the long history of Turkish modernization is drawn across the nineteenth century, but it is an imaginary one. Once we disregard this border, it becomes clear that manuscript arts are fundamentally relevant to our histories of the nineteenth-century Ottoman culture.


The towns and cities of the Ottoman eastern frontier saw a burst of nineteenth-century building activity that began with non-Muslim elites constructing mansions and churches in the post-Tanzimat (reform) years. Under Abdülhamid II, attention was concentrated on civic buildings such as the Government House (Hükümet Konağı), Municipality (Belediye), as well as the implementation of the new schools (İdadiye and Rüşdiye). At this time, building programs also took on a military focus, with barracks constructed to supply the Hamidiye Regiments, often built in city-centre locations. This paper will focus on this process of militarization of the eastern Anatolian region between the Hamidian and the Young Turk regime, when, in addition to the barracks, building works started to encompass a number of border-zone police stations and correctional facilities, particularly in Van and Erzurum. It will look to how the architectural profession, as well as the border zone, became Turkified and Islamicized through building mosques alongside these new facilities, changing the training system of architects and awarding those who worked on military projects. The paper will ask how architecture was used to communicate the changed priorities of the state, how it attempted to seal the eastern border and, with this, served to realign the identity of the empire in its final decades.


In early 1925 tantalizing rumors brought a deluge of Western diplomats across the borders of Iran: the nascent Pahlavi government was contemplating annulling the French monopoly on antiquities exportation. Positioning themselves as the new and true stewards of Iran, Pahlavi officials were keen to profit widely from the clamoring of self-proclaimed authorities of the past—Western academics—and to harness the illustrious Persian artistic traditions to their political advantage. When, in that same year, luxurious, medieval silks were uncovered by art dealers in the former capital of Rayy, it is no wonder that an array of publications would shortly follow which touted the so-called “Buyid” silks as treasures of a glorious past. Nor should it be surprising that miraculously pristine silks appeared on the market shortly thereafter, while the more modest textiles excavated archaeologically beginning in the 1930’s went without mention. Rather, what makes this case unique is the continued suspicion that lingers around the silks from Rayy nearly a century later, despite the fact that Islamic art—let alone art history more broadly—has dispensed with countless other forgeries. Thus, the present paper undertakes to reframe our understanding of these transgressive silks. It considers first the moment of their discovery before then addressing the standards of evidence applied to the silks from Rayy and their forgeries. For at their core, the silks, both medieval and forged, engaged in an act of remembering historical time. Art history, too, deals in the past, but its methods for structuring and analyzing its artefacts are evolving and imperfect. Therefore, by studying the points of intersection between art history’s standards and the silks purporting to come from Rayy, one may understand not only the ways in which the forgeries emulated exactly that which the twentieth century valued, but also those qualities which made silks authentic in the medieval period, which scholarship has overlooked.


At the turn of the twentieth century, Argentina was radically transformed by one of the largest waves of mass migration in Latin America, which powerfully reshaped the racial, urban, and architectural environment of the southern cone. While the majority of migrants arrived from Europe, a significant number of religiously and ethnically diverse immigrants from the Ottoman provinces of Adana, Syria, Aleppo and Beirut also arrived as early as the 1860s. This paper presents key case studies of architecture sponsored by patrons in the Argentine mahjar, or Arabic-speaking diaspora. By analyzing the eclectic designs of immigrant-sponsored social clubs, such as the Club Sirio-Libanés of San Juan, and palatial residences like the Palacio Árabe of Mar del Plata, the built environment emerges as a vehicle for multiple forms of mobility (i.e. social, economic, political, even ethnic) in a country where the arrival of Middle Eastern migrants was initially contested. These social clubs and lavish residences not only represented their immigrant patrons to the broader Argentine public, but also served as a means to negotiate new transnational identities and multi-faith allegiances during the politically complex decades surrounding modern-era Syrian and Lebanese independence movements. By examining the arabesque elements of these buildings as acts of transatlantic translation and even transgression, the diasporic dimensions of Islamic architecture in Argentina are brought to the fore.


Up until the protracted attacks by the so-called Islamic state on Iraq, Mosul was often described as one of the most diverse places in the world. Beginning in 2014 the city has witnessed the wide-scale destruction of prophet tombs and Sufi, Shia, Christian and Yezidi shrines. The destruction of these and other multi-unit, multi-functional, and to some extent multi denominational shrines have, according to Géraldine Chatelard, been an attack on ‘cultural manifestations and symbols of diversity.’ While various groups have begun the depressing task of compiling lists and mapping destroyed buildings, individual ethnic, religious, linguistic and scholarly communities have rushed to designate dilapidated buildings as cultural heritage sites and digitally preserve photos and memories of buildings, mostly through digital platforms. Although these groups draw upon widely divergent funding sources and digital technologies and, with very few exceptions, are not in coordination with each other, there is no doubt that their varied sites will be instrumental in future projects for the region. Given the massive and uneven nature of shrine destruction, the study and evaluation of the role of mapping, modeling, and data collection in preserving the tangible and intangible heritage of Mosul brings up many important questions that represent new borders in the study of Islamic art and its ongoing role within cultural heritage preservation. One of these questions, which is the focus of this paper, is how to represent diversity in digital form without losing a representative scale of loss.