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Abstract

This article re-examines the established findings about Umayyad art as a transitional production essentially anchored in the Western and Eastern Late Antique traditions that have inspired it. It argues instead that the Umayyads brought about an aesthetic revolution laying out the foundations of what has become known as “Islamic ornament,” a predominantly aniconic art form. An epistemological shift from art history to critical inquiry allows us to show that, beyond the adaptive borrowing of pre-existing forms, the Umayyads redefined the art’s condition of meaning based on an unprecedented attitude to images and visual discourse informed by Islamic ontotheology and logocentric metaphysics.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Olly Akkerman

Abstract

This article traces the remains of Fāṭimid chancery documents, and the writing practices that surround them, among the Bohras of Gujarat. As Shiʿi Ismaʿilis, the Bohras consider themselves heirs of the Fāṭimid Imāmate (909–1171). Whereas other Ismaʿili communities, such as the Nizārīs, claim their genealogical link to the Fāṭimids through the presence of a living Imam, the Bohras legitimize their “Neo-Fāṭimid” identity through a living Arabic Ismaʿili manuscript culture. While the philological link between the Bohras and the Fāṭimids has hitherto been acknowledged through the mobility and preservation of these manuscripts, their use of documents, however, and its potential Fāṭimid influences, has remained unexplored. Based on ethnographic observations and archival research among the ʿAlawi Bohras of Baroda, I suggest that practices from the Fāṭimid chancery continued in Yemen and Gujarat in the post-Fāṭimid world, and continue to survive today in the Bohra community’s documentary culture.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Delphine Ortis

Abstract

This essay presents a reflection on the building process of ascetics belonging to an order “outside religious law” (be sharʿ), the Qalandarī, through the case of the malañg-fuqarā of a Pakistani Sufi lodge. I hypothesize that being an ascetic is a form of technique of the body and the subject, which results in producing, configuring, and using them, in relation to the Sufi and Twelver Shiʿism artifacts dispensing the healing and miraculous potency of the saint to whom he dedicates his life, and through which he builds himself as potential saint.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Hani Hamza

Abstract

The borderlines between the sacred and profane, and the living and the dead, are blurred in the Mamluk Northern Cemetery of Cairo like in no other place in Egypt. Sacred burial domes, prayer chapels, mosques, ṣūfī khanqās, and zawīyyas stood side by side with profane residential quarters, kitchens, latrines, stables, kutābs, and sabīls scattered around a ḥaūsh enclosed by a wall. The Northern Cemetery was dotted with over a hundred of such Mamluk turba complexes. Many perished, but thirty-six survived.

The majority of surviving turbas are identified with certainty, but a few have controversial attributions or doubtful dating. One surviving turba stands out as not being recognized at all, let alone given an attribution or date. This is the peculiar case of the turba of Jirbāsh Qāshiq (d. 861/1456), standing between the complexes of Īnāl and of Qurqumās at the edge of the Northern Cemetery.

The plan of Ῑnāl’s complex (855–60/1451–56) has a peculiar square area protruding uncomfortably to the west, now in semi ruins. It was identified empirically by the Comité in 1919 as courtyard C of the complex of Ῑnāl. None of the later studies challenged this attribution. This paper will discuss the vague attributions of three turbas in the area in general, and as a case study challenges the Comité’s attribution of the ḥaush C as part of Īnāl’s complex; it proposes that it is a separate turba for Jirbāsh Qāshiq. This conclusion is reached through reading of several waqf manuscripts, comparisons with other monuments of the same genre and era, biographical dictionaries, and chronicles. A plan and a three-dimensional re-construction of the turba are drawn as well.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World

Abstract

The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin, a tomb-shrine located south of Tehran, is well known for supplying global museums with iconic examples of Ilkhanid-period luster tilework. After providing a historiography of the site, including its plunder in the late nineteenth century, we explore its current (2018–20) “life” in order to illuminate the many ways that it can be accessed, used, perceived, and packaged by a wide range of local, national, and global stakeholders. Merging past and present history, art history and amateur anthropology, and the academic, personal, and popular voice, this article explores the Emamzadeh Yahya’s delicate and active existence between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Karen G. Ruffle

Abstract

This essay presents an extended theoretical reflection on how South Asian Shiʿa visually engage with image-objects, notably the metal standard (ʿalam), and replica of Imam Husayn’s Karbala shrine-tomb (taʿziya). I present four theoretical lenses to theorize South Asian Shiʿi visual interactions: 1. Image acts; 2. Objects as assemblages imbued with thing power; 3. Images as focal objects of reciprocal gazing, and 4. The intersensorial nature of image-objects.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Agnese Fusaro

Abstract

The site of al-Balīd (Southern Oman), identified as the ancient Ẓafār, was a major port city in the Islamic period. Its strategic position and its history, strongly interdependent with that of neighbouring regions, gave it an important socio-economic role.

The abundant ceramics and the rich and diverse archaeological materials recovered at the site prove that al-Balīd has always maintained relationships with people living inland and, at the same time, that it was intensively involved in the Indian Ocean trade. The pottery also reflects the coexistence of different traditions, various social classes, and several communities at al-Balīd.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
Author: Hiba Abid

Abstract

The Dalāʾil al-Khayrāt (Guidelines to the Blessings) is a very popular book of prayers over the Prophet Muḥammad, originally written around the mid-fifteenth century by Muḥammad b. Sulaymān al-Jazūlī (d. 869/1465). The Dalāʾil is probably the only illustrated religious text in the Maghreb, where the image has been the subject of more profound reluctance than in the rest of the Muslim world. They show the sacred tomb of the Prophet inside the mosque of Medina, as well as his minbar, his miḥrāb and his sandals (naʿl), one of the most venerated relics in Islam. If the images in North African books have been systematically interpreted in a superficial way, this article proposes a reading at the crossroads of art history, codicology and a careful examination of the main text and the precious annotations added by the readers of some unpublished manuscripts. We will then understand that these illustrations have gradually acquired an autonomous place within the book. They act alongside the text, as memorial images of the sacred space hosting the holy body of the Prophet, and as a virtual substitute for the pilgrimage to Medina. It is in fact through this act, be it physical or virtual, that Muslims hope to visualize, in a dream, the figure of their loved one, Muḥammad.

In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World