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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, March 2-4, 2023 (The event will also be live streamed)


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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

03.02.23

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

4:45-5:00

Welcome Remarks

Aimée Froom, Curator, Art of the Islamic Worlds, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Farshid Emami, Assistant Professor, Rice University; Emine Fetvacı, Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor in Islamic and Asian Art, Boston College, and President-Elect, Historians of Islamic Art Association; and Kishwar Rizvi, Robert Lehman Professor in the History of Art and Architecture, Yale University, and President, Historians of Islamic Art Association

5:00-6:30

Keynote Lecture

Introduction by Aimée Froom, Curator, Art of the Islamic Worlds, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Lisa Balabanlilar, Joseph and Joanna Nazro Mullen Professor in the Humanities; Chair, Department of Transnational Asian Studies; Director, Chao Center for Asian Studies; Professor of History, Rice University

6:30-8:00

RECEPTION

03.03.23

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

8:15-8:30

Welcome Remarks

Aimée Froom, Curator, Art of the Islamic Worlds, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Farshid Emami, Assistant Professor, Rice University; Emine Fetvacı, Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor in Islamic and Asian Art, Boston College, and President-Elect, Historians of Islamic Art Association; and Kishwar Rizvi, Robert Lehman Professor in the History of Art and Architecture, Yale University, and President, Historians of Islamic Art Association

8:30-10:30

Panel

(Re-)Activating Architectural Interiors in the Museum

Linda Komaroff, Curator and Department Head, Art of the Middle East, LACMA

A Damascus Room in Los Angeles

Anke Scharrahs, Conservator

‘Damascus Rooms’ in Dresden and Doha: Multifunctional Architectural Spaces in Museum Displays

Anna McSweeney, Lecturer, Trinity College, Dublin

Displaying the Alhambra Cupola in Berlin

Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Torrijos Ceiling at V&A East

Discussant: Julia Gonnella, Director, Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Organizers: Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and Anna McSweeney, Lecturer, Trinity College, Dublin

10:30-11:00

BREAK

11:00a-1:00

Panel

Transculturality and Intertextuality

Xinyu Liang, Ph.D. Student, Rice University

Faith and Integration: Taiyuan Ancient Mosque and Chinese Muslims’ Settlement in Heartland China

Amanda Caterina Leong, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Merced

Re-thinking Medieval Race and Female Javānmardī in the Illustrated Manuscripts of Khvaju Kirmani’s Khamsa and the Kitab-i Samak ‘Ayyar

Yagnaseni Datta, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

From Monster to Mendicant: Transformative Philosophy in the Paintings of the Mughal Jūg Bāsisht, c. 1602

Janet O'Brien, Independent Scholar

Framing Nādir Shāh’s Indian Portraits in a British Colonial Narrative

Michael A. Lally, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University

Kanga, Kitenge, and Batik: Object Biography, Materiality, and Form in Nineteenth-Century Textiles in East Africa

Discussant: Lisa Balabanlilar, Joseph and Joanna Nazro Mullen Professor in the Humanities; Chair, Department of Transnational Asian Studies; Director, Chao Center for Asian Studies; Professor of History, Rice University

1:00-2:30

LUNCH BREAK

2:30-4:30

Panel

Intersections of Race and Gender in Islamic Art and Visual Culture

Sandra S. Williams, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Gender Conceal and Reveal in Pre-Modern Persianate Painting

Mika Natif, Associate Professor, George Washington University

“In the Name of the Mothers”: Postpartum Scenes as Female Genealogies in Mughal India

Yasemin Gencer, Instructor, Wayne State University, and Affiliate Scholar, Indiana University’s Institute for Advanced Study

Framed: Image and Race in the Early Turkish Republican Press

Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

“Do-For-Self”: The Visual Culture of the Nation of Islam

Discussant: Nancy Micklewright, Research Associate, Smithsonian

Organizers: Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Holley Ledbetter, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

4:30-5:00

BREAK

5:00-7:00

Panel

Reconstructing Sense and Sensibilities from Museum Collections

Arvin Maghsoudlou, Ph.D. Candidate, Southern Methodist University

Rethinking Context in the Study of Precious Metalwork from Iranian Late Antiquity

Michelle Al-Ferzly, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Sense and Sensuality: Early Islamic Dining-Ware and the Museum

Rebecca Wrightson, D.Phil. Candidate, University of Oxford

The Other Half: Reconstructing the Context of Epigraphic Ceramics in the Early Islamic World

Jenny Peruski, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University

Portal Patinas: Reconsidering Practices of Collection and Display in Three Carved Doors from Zanzibar

Discussant: Linda Komaroff, Curator and Department Head, Art of the Middle East, LACMA

03.04.23

Rice University

8:15-8:30

Welcome Remarks

Farshid Emami, Assistant Professor, Rice University

8:30-10:30

Panel

Space, Text, and Image: An Architecture of Memory

Hiba Abid, Faculty Fellow, NYU/Silsila: Center for Material Histories

A Muslim Conception of Memory in the Arts of the Book? Color and Illuminated Forms in North African Manuscripts

Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya, Senior Curator, Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Mnemotechnics of Images in Pilgrimage Certificates and Manuals: A Codified Mental Visualization of the Holy Sites

Nur Sobers-Khan, Director, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT

South Asian Shrine as Heterotopia: The Sensoria and Sacred Landscapes of Sehwan, Bhit Shah, and Bib Pak Daman

Işın Taylan, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

Between Art and Science: Geographical Images in the Maʿrifetnāme

Fahimeh Ghorbani, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto

Quranic Writing Boards, Mnemonic Devices in Islamic Educational Setting of Sub-Saharan Africa

Discussant: Nur Sobers-Khan, Director, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT

Organizer: Hiba Abid, Faculty Fellow, NYU/Silsila: Center for Material Histories

10:30-11:00

BREAK

11:00-1:00

Panel

Architecture, Landscape and the Vernacular

Irem Gunduz-Polat, Ph.D. Candidate, Marmara University, Istanbul

Religious and Political Contexts Entangled: The Construction of the Mevlevi Lodge in Edirne

Sahar Hosseini, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh

Looking From and Through the River: A Different Perspective on Seventeenth-Century Developments of Isfahan

Mohamed Ahmed Enab, Assistant Professor, Fayoum University

Zaydī Shiite Inscriptions on the Religious Ottoman Buildings in Yemen and its Connotations

Angela Andersen, Fellow, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, and Adjunct Faculty, University of Victoria

Contextualizing the Vernacular in Islamic Art: No Waqf, No Patron, No Architect, No Building

Parshati Dutta, Postgraduate Researcher, University of York

A Royal Caravanserai in a Refugee Crisis: Reconstructing the Mughal Sarai of Amanat Khan in the Context of Post-Partition India

Discussant: Abbey Stockstill, Assistant Professor, Southern Methodist University

1:00-2:00

LUNCH BREAK

2:00-4:00

Panel

Expanding Contexts for Islamic Art in the Americas

Alex Dika Seggerman, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University-Newark

Art Histories of Antebellum American Islam

Ashley Dimmig, Crossman Gallery Director, Department of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin—Whitewater 

Localizing Islam at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Olivia Clemens, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University

Domesticating the Alhambra: The ‘Moorish’ Craze in the United States from Washington Irving to Sears Roebuck

Caroline Olivia Wolf, Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Building Modernism in the Mahjar: Art and Architectural Patronage of the Syrian-Lebanese Diaspora in Northwest Argentina

Discussant: Emily Neumeier, Assistant Professor, Temple University

Organizer: Ashley Dimmig, Crossman Gallery Director, Department of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin—Whitewater

4:00-4:30

BREAK

4:30-6:30

Panel

Re-imaging Surface and Context with Digital Tools

Patricia Blessing, Assistant Professor, Princeton University

Reimagining Royal Space: The Qilij Arslan II Kiosk in Konya and its Lost Interior

Elena Paskaleva, Assistant Professor, Leiden University

The China Pavilion (chīnīkhāna) of Ulugh Beg in Samarqand

Margaret Squires, Ph.D. Candidate, Courtauld Institute of Art

From Silk and Silver to Brick and Mortar: ‘Polonaise’ Carpets and Transmediality in the ʿAli Qapu Palace

Sarah Tabbal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Vitrocentre Romont, Switzerland

Islamic Stucco Glass Windows in their Contexts: Orientalist Paintings and Photographs as Historical Sources

Discussant: Heather Ecker, Independent Scholar and Curator

6:30-7:30

Forum

The Metaverse and Islamic Art

Panelists: Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Yael R. Rice, Associate Professor, Amherst College; and Maxime Durand, World Design Director, Ubisoft

Discussant and Organizer: Glaire Anderson, Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh

7:30-7:45

Closing Remarks

Emine Fetvacı, Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor in Islamic and Asian Art, Boston College, and President-Elect, Historians of Islamic Art Association

All times are in CST (Central Standard Time), which is UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) -6