Finbarr Barry Flood(on leave fall 2017 and spring 2019)

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the Humanities, Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences

PhD  University of Edinburgh, Islamic Art History, 1993 
B.A. Trinity College, Archaeology with Mental and Moral Science, Dublin, 1988

My research interests are focused on material culture in general and art and architecture in particular, as sources for the formation, transformation, and transculturation of identity in the Islamic world in relation to the cultural traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism,Judaism and Secularism. Although appointed in an art history institute and department, I work across and between the disciplines of Anthropology, Art History, History, Material Culture Studies, Middle East Studies, and Religious Studies. I am particularly interested in the dynamic qualities of artifacts, artisans, artistic concepts, and materials and the ways in which mobility constructs, destabilizes, and reinforces boundaries of various sorts. My published work ranges from the medieval art and architecture of the Arab lands, to the Persianate cultures of eastern Iran, Central and South Asia. I have also written on the role of optical technologies in modern Orientalist representation, colonial historiography in South Asia, the historiography of Islamic art, and contemporary art in the Islamic world and South Asia – I have just participated in the catalog for the first retrospective of a contemporary Arab artist (Walid Raad) at MoMa in New York. As this suggests, I have a particular interest in the politics of art history and the mobilization of art and architecture in the service of both Islamicist and neo-colonialist agendas, something that I address directly in my teaching and writing.

Among my very recent publications are an essay on the ingestion of images and words in the edited volume Sensational Religion (Yale, 2014), a discussion of Islamic figurative art in the International Journal of Middle East Studies (45/3, 2013), an essay on the Danish cartoon controversy in the edited volume Images That Move (Santa Fe, 2013), a short essay on anthropomorphism (Art Bulletin 94/, March 2012) and essay contributions to the exhibition catalog Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012).

My books include The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture (2000), and Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu- Muslim” Encounter, (2009), awarded the 2011 Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association for Asian Studies for the best English language book on South Asia in any discipline or field. Edited volumes include Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century (2011), co-edited with Nebahat Avcıoğlu, and Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2008). I am currently co-editing the 2-volume
Blackwell Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture with Professor Gülru Necipoğlu of Harvard University, a project that entailed the commissioning of 50 new essays on Islamic art and architecture.

I have a deep commitment to fieldwork in the regions that I study, something becoming increasingly rare. Ongoing projects include a co-authored monograph on artistic connections between medieval Ethiopia, India and the Islamic world based on several seasons of fieldwork undertaken with Dr. Kindeneh Mihretie of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University;  a collaborative project on medieval Islamicate dress and textiles in the Caucasus undertaken with Dr. Irina Koshoridze, chief curator of Islamic art at the Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia; a collaborative project entitled Object Histories: Flotsam as Early Globalism, for which I and Professor Beate Fricke of UC Berkeley have been awarded an ACLS Collaborative Grant.

I am currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Europe’s pre-eminent Institute for Advanced Study, completing a major book project, provisionally entitled Islam and Image: Polemics, Theology and Modernity. While a fellow here, I am co-organizing the first ever workshop on Islamic Law and Material Culture, with Leor Halevi of Vanderbilt University.

Over the past years, I have actively engaged in the creation of a wide variety of international projects and scholarly networks across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. My students have benefited from these, as is reflected in the diverse geographic ranges of their dissertation topics. These networks are reflected not only in my ongoing fieldwork and
research projects, but also in the number and range of invited lectures and keynote speeches. In the past months, for example, I have given invited lectures in Ghana, Kuwait, Norway, and several lectures in Switzerland. In the coming months I am delivering invited talks in Cambridge, Oxford, Bamberg, Berlin and Rome and keynote talks or endowed annual lectures in Abu Dhabi, Basel, Budapest, and Istanbul. I have also been invited to deliver the biannual lecture to the advisory board of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in May.

In addition to teaching at NYU, I have been invited to teach as the Rudolph Arnheim guest professor, Humboldt University, Berlin (declined) and in 2014 was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University in Cairo. In 2018-19, I will be Slade Professor of Fine Art, University of Oxford. In addition, I have taught in Mumbai and in the coming months have been invited to teach intensive seminars at research institutes and universities in Mumbai, Dublin and Beirut.

I sit on dissertation committees at NYU and other universities, including Chicago, Columbia University, the Sorbonne and La Sapienza, Università di Roma. I am a member of the editorial boards of many eminent institutes and journals in the US and Europe across the disciplines of Art History, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Islamic Studies, and South Asian Studies, including Art History, Initiative for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (MAVCOR) Yale University, Eighteenth-Century Studies, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Journal18, Muqarnas (Harvard University), Res: Journal of Anthropology and Comparative Aesthetics, South Asian Studies, Studies in Asian Art and Culture (Berlin), and West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture.

I am a regular reviewer of fellowship applications for the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. I also sit on the A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Committee, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the fellowship committee for "Inter-Asian Contexts and Connections," an initiative of the Inter-Asia Program of the Social Science Research Council.

Research interests

Art and architecture of the Islamic world.
Cross-cultural dimensions of Islamic material culture.
Theories and practices of image-making.
Technologies of Representation.
Art historical historiography, methodology, and theory.

Sample courses

The Emergence of Islam and its Mediterranean Milieu.
Before the Mughals: Early Indo-Islamic Material Culture.
Beyond Abstraction and Arabesques: Refiguring Islamic Ornament.
Intercultural Islam: Betwixt and Between in the Medieval Islamic World


Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century. Co-edited with Nebahat Avcioğlu, a dedicated volume of the journal Ars Orientalis (39, 2011).

Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter. Princeton University Press, 2009.

Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque. Debates in Indian History and Society.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture. Boston: Brill, 2000.

Articles and Essays

"Bodies and Becoming: Mimesis, Mediation and the Ingestion of the Sacred in Christianity and Islam," in Sally M. Promey, ed., Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice, 459-493. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. Open ODF in new window

"Lost Histories of a Licit Figural Art," International Journal of Middle East Studies (45/3, 2013), 566-569. Open PDF in new window

"Inciting Modernity? Images, Alterities and the Contexts of "Cartoon Wars,"" in Patricia Spyer and Mary Margaret Steedly, eds., Images That Move (Santa Fe, 2013), 41-72. Open PDF in new window

Intervention: "Presentation, (Re)animation and the Enchantments of Technology," Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics (61/62, 2012), 228-236. Open PDF in new window

"Gilding, Inlay and the Mobility of Metallurgy: A Case of Fraud in Medieval Kashmir," in Venetia Porter & Mariam Rosser-Owen, eds., Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World: Art, Craft and Text. Essays Presented to James W. Allan (London, 2012), 131-142. Open PDF in new window

“From Icon to Coin: Potlatch, Piety, and Idolatry in Medieval Islam,” in Gerhard Jaritz, ed., Images, Ritual and Daily Life. The Medieval Evidence, (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 163-172. Open PDF in new window

"Notes from the Field: Anthropomorphism," Art Bulletin (93/4, March 2012), 18-20. Open PDF in new window

"Christian Mosaics in Jordan and Early Islamic Palestine: A Case of Regional Iconoclasm;" "Faith, Religion and the Material Culture of Early Islam;" "The Qur'an," along with entries on mosaics, pilgrimage art, and Qur'ans, in Helen Evans, ed., Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012). [Open PDF in new window 'Faith. religion' and 'The Qur'an']

“Conflict and Cosmopolitanism in Arab Sind,” in Deborah Hutton & Rebecca Brown, eds., A Companion to South Asian Art (Blackwell Companions to Art History) (2011), 365-397.

“Appropriation as Inscription: Making History in the First Friday Mosque of Delhi,” in Richard Brilliant and Dale Kinney, eds., The Mirror of Spolia: Premodern Practice and Postmodern Theory (Malden, MA, 2011), 121-147. Open PDF in new window

“A Ghaznavid Narrative Relief and the Problem of Pre-Mongol Persian Book Painting,” in David Knipp, ed., Siculo-Arabic Ivories and Islamic Painting 1100-1300, Proceedings of the International Conference, Berlin, 6-8 July 2007 (München, 2011), 257-272.  Open PDF in new window

"Memory in Material and Light/Mémoire de matière et de lumière," catalog essay for Zarina Hashmi, Noor, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris, 2011. Open PDF in new window

"Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century,"  essay co-authored with Nebahat Avcioğlu, Ars Orientalis (39, 2011), 7-38. Open PDF in new window

“Conflict and Cosmopolitanism in Arab Sind,” in Deborah Hutton & Rebecca Brown, eds., A Companion to South Asian Art (Blackwell Companions to Art History, 2011), 365-397. Open PDF in new window

Contribution to "Roundtable: The Global before Globalization," October (133, Summer, 2010), 3-19. Open PDF in new window

"Masons and Mobility: Indic Elements in Twelfth-century Afghan Stone-carving," in Anna Filigenzi & Roberta Giunta, eds., Fifty Years of Research in the Heart of Eurasia, Insituto Italiano per l'Africa et ;'Oriente, (Rome 2009), 137-160. Open PDF in new window

"La communauté imaginaire," Qantara, (73, November, 2009) 18-19. Open PDF in new window

“An ambiguous aesthetic: Crusader spolia in Ayyubid Jerusalem.” In Ayyubid Jerusalem: The Holy City in Context, 1187-1250, edited by Robert Hillenbrand and Sylvia Auld, 202-215. London: Altajir Trust, 2009. Open PDF in new window

“Islamic Identities and Islamic Art: Inscribing the Qur’an in Twelfth-century Afghanistan.” In Dialogues in Art History, from Mesopotamian to Modern: Readings for a New Century, edited by Elizabeth Cropper, 91-118. Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 2009. Open PDF in new window

“Lost in Translation: Architecture, Taxonomy and the Eastern ‘Turks’.” Muqarnas 24 (2007): 79-116. Open PDF in new window

“From the Prophet to Postmodernism? New World Orders and the End of Islamic Art.” In Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and its Institutions, edited by Elizabeth Mansfield, 31-53. London & New York: Routledge, 2007. Open PDF in new window

“Image against Nature: Spolia as Apotropaia in Byzantium and the Dar al-Islam.” Mapping the Gaze – Vision and Visuality in Classical Arab Civilisation, a special issue of The Medieval History Journal 9 no. 1 (2006): 143-166. Open PDF in new window

“Correct Delineations and Promiscuous Outlines: Envisioning India at the Trial of Warren Hastings.” Art History 29 no. 1 (2006): 47-78. Open PDF in new window

“Ghurid monuments and Muslim identities: Epigraphy and Exegesis in Twelfth-century Afghanistan.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 42 no. 3 (2005): 263-294.

“Persianate Trends in Sultanate Architecture: The Great Mosque of Bad’aun,” in Bernard O’Kane, ed., The Iconography of Islamic Art, Studies in Honour of Robert Hillenbrand (Edinburgh, 2005), 159-95. Open PDF in new window

“Between Creation and Destruction,” editorial co-authored with Zoë S. Strother, Res (48, 2005), 5-10. Open PDF in new window

“Signs of Violence: Colonial Ethnographies and Indo-Islamic Monuments.”Art and Terror, a special issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art 5 no. 2 (2004): 20-51. Open PDF in new window

“Pillars, Palimpsests and Princely Practices: Translating the Past in Sultanate Delhi.” Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics 43 (2003): 95-116. Open PDF in new window

“Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm and the Museum.” Art Bulletin 84 no. 4 (2002): 641-659. Open PDF in new window

“The Medieval Trophy as an Art Historical Trope: Coptic and Byzantine 'Altars' in Islamic Contexts.” Muqarnas 18 (2001): 41-72. Open PDF in new window

“Ghurid Architecture in the Indus Valley: the Tomb of Shaykh Sadan Shahid.” Ars Orientalis 36 (2001): 129-166.

“Light in Stone: the Commemoration of the Prophet in Umayyad Architecture.”In Bayt al-Maqdis Part Two: Jerusalem and Early Islam, edited by Jeremy Johns, 311-59. Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, 9, part 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

“The Ottoman Windows in the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque.”In Ottoman Jerusalem, the Living City: 1517-1917, edited by Sylvia Auld and Robert Hillenbrand, 431-63.London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000. Open PDF in new window

“Umayyad survivals and Mamluk revivals: Qalawunid architecture and the Great Mosque of Damascus.” Muqarnas 14 (1997): 57-79. Open PDF in new window

“Herakles and the 'Perpetual Acolyte' of the Buddha: Observations on the Iconography of Vajrapani in Gandharan Art.” South Asian Studies 5 (1989): 17-27. Open PDF in new window

Articles in Press

“Stucco and Glass Windows from the East and West Palaces.” Forthcoming in Raqqa IV: Excavations of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut at Raqqa, Syrian Arab Republic.

Selected Review Articles

Review of Ahmad Ghabin, Hisba, Arts and Craft in Islam (Arabisch-Islamische Welt in Tradition und Moderne, 2009), Speculum (88/2, 2013), 517-520. Open PDF in new window

Review of Oleg Grabar, The Dome of the Rock (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), Journal of Palestine Studies (38/4, 2009) 113-115. Open PDF in new window

Current Research Projects

Islam and Image: Polemics, Theology and Modernity. A transhistorical exploration of the ‘prohibition of images’ (Bilderverbot) as a perceived characteristic of Islamic cultures. Based on both empirical and theoretical approaches, the book analyses the interrelationships between proscription, prescription, and artistic praxis. To be published by Reaktion Books, London.

Selected Honors

2014 Iris Foundation Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts
2011 winner of the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, South Asia Council, for the best English-language work in South Asian studies.
Carnegie Foundation Scholar, 2007-2008
NYU's Golden Dozen Award for Outstanding Teaching, 2006
Getty Scholar, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2007
Residential fellow, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., 2006
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000-2001
Research Fellow, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2001-2002
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Art, Harvard University, 1997
Nasser D. Khalili Research Fellow in Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Oxford, 1993-1995