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.
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,
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.
"Lost Histories of a Licit Figural Art," International Journal of Middle East Studies (45/3, 2013), 566-569.
"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.
Intervention: "Presentation, (Re)animation and the Enchantments of Technology," Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics (61/62, 2012), 228-236.
"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.
“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.
"Notes from the Field: Anthropomorphism," Art Bulletin (93/4, March 2012), 18-20.
"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). [ '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.
“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.
"Memory in Material and Light/Mémoire de matière et de lumière," catalog essay for Zarina Hashmi, Noor, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris, 2011.
"Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century," essay co-authored with Nebahat Avcioğlu, Ars Orientalis (39, 2011), 7-38.
“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.
Contribution to "Roundtable: The Global before Globalization," October (133, Summer, 2010), 3-19.
"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.
"La communauté imaginaire," Qantara, (73, November, 2009) 18-19.
“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.
“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.
“Lost in Translation: Architecture, Taxonomy and the Eastern
‘Turks’.” Muqarnas 24 (2007): 79-116.
“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.
“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.
“Correct Delineations and Promiscuous Outlines: Envisioning
India at the Trial of Warren Hastings.” Art History 29 no. 1 (2006): 47-78.
“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.
“Between Creation and Destruction,” editorial co-authored with Zoë S. Strother, Res (48, 2005), 5-10.
“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.
“Pillars, Palimpsests and Princely Practices: Translating
the Past in Sultanate Delhi.” Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics 43 (2003): 95-116.
“Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm and
the Museum.” Art Bulletin 84 no. 4
“The Medieval Trophy as an Art Historical Trope: Coptic and
Byzantine 'Altars' in Islamic Contexts.” Muqarnas 18 (2001): 41-72.
“Ghurid Architecture in the Indus Valley: the Tomb of Shaykh
Sadan Shahid.” Ars Orientalis 36 (2001):
“Light in Stone: the Commemoration of the Prophet in Umayyad
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.
“Umayyad survivals and Mamluk revivals: Qalawunid
architecture and the Great Mosque of Damascus.” Muqarnas 14 (1997): 57-79.
“Herakles and the 'Perpetual Acolyte' of the Buddha: Observations
on the Iconography of Vajrapani in Gandharan Art.” South Asian Studies 5 (1989): 17-27.
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.
Review of Oleg Grabar, The Dome of the Rock (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), Journal of Palestine Studies (38/4, 2009) 113-115.