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  Expanding Contexts
Bowl with Fish, late 13th - mid-14th century, stonepaste; painted in black under turquoise glaze, The Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Upcoming HIAA Biennial Symposium

Expanding Contexts

The Museum of Fine Arts and Rice University
Houston


As historians of Islamic art and architecture, we often deal with objects and edifices that are spatially and temporally removed from their contexts. Artworks are displayed in glass cases in museum galleries and heavily restored monuments offer little clue of the social life that once unfolded in and around them. The discussion of context has long been dominated by politics, dynasties, and patronage. Recent scholarship, however, has immensely expanded the definition of the context to include urban, sensory, perceptual, social, and global settings, to name a few trends. We no longer discuss works of art and architecture as reified creations but consider them in the context of labor, craft, and everyday practices. We construe artworks not as neutral reflections of their historical settings but as agents that actively inform their contexts. Rather than seeking a definite provenance, we write transregional narratives of objects and their dynamic (cross-) cultural lives.

For the next biennial HIAA symposium, we invite panels and papers that explore the question of context in Islamic art and architecture from new methodological and theoretical perspectives. We seek papers that engage new conceptual models, strategies, and technologies for reconstructing, narrating, and visualizing the historical contexts. What are the promises and pitfalls of the digital age for reconstructing the original contexts of artworks and architectural fragments? What approaches and conceptions can we take to invoke the context and intimate the embodied experiences of historical audiences for the public in museums, academic settings, and online platforms? Is it possible to redress the acts of transmission and dislocation that have led to the creation of major collections by means of reconstructing their contexts? How can we use the context to expand the global reach of the field and narrate the past in ways that speak to broader audiences?

Symposium Committee

Aimée Froom (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) and Farshid Emami (Rice University), co-organizers

Stephennie Mulder, Nada Shabout, Abbey Stockstill, and Heather Ecker, committee members

Dates and Call for Papers

This symposium is tentatively planned for Winter/Spring 2023. More information on dates, call for papers, and registration to follow.