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Monthly Talk: The Development and Significance of Muslim Chaplaincy – Copy – Copy

Monthly Talk:What’s “Islamic” about Islamic Art?

A Talk by Professor Stephennie Mulder

Thursday 27 June 2024
6.00 P.M. – 7.30 P.M. (LONDON TIME)
HOSTED BY: The Islamic College, London, UK

Speaker: Professor Stephennie Mulder

Title of the talk: What’s “Islamic” about Islamic Art?

Date: Friday, 27 June 2024

Time: 6 pm – 7:30 pm (London summer time)

When most of us think of Islamic art, we probably think of the infinite geometries and elegant calligraphy of a mosque or an illuminated Qur’an. Yet in the 15th century, a Muslim ruler commissioned a beautiful brass wine cup inlaid with silver scrolling patterns and Arabic calligraphy. On its surface is an inscription that says “To Allah belongs might… power… victory… strength.” At first blush, it seems a strange thing to contemplate an object of art that praises Allah that is at the same time made to drink wine, a substance that is ostensibly to be avoided in Islam. So is the wine cup an example of Islamic art? How do we encompass an art form that spanned three continents and 1,400 years, bringing millions of diverse adherents into its fold? The question of what, exactly, Islamic art is remains enduring, perplexing, and fascinating. This talk will explore these questions by walking through both a bit of history of the art of the Islamic world but also through the history of the field of Art History. One of the most intriguing things about the question of what’s Islamic about Islamic art is that it forces us to ask questions about the broader history of art, and our answer allows us to realign how we think about not only what Islamic art is, but actually to think about what art is and why we have decided it’s one kind of thing and not another.


Stephennie Mulder is Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a specialist in Islamic art, architectural history, and archaeology. She worked for over ten years as the head ceramicist at Balis, a medieval Islamic city in Syria, and has conducted archaeological and art historical fieldwork in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and elsewhere in the region. Mulder’s book The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’s and the Architecture of Coexistence, published in 2014, received numerous awards. She has published on matters related to heritage preservation and the trade in looted antiquities, Islamic archaeology, and cultural heritage in the Journal of Islamic Archaeology, the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, and The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology. She has appeared in media interviews and written editorials for media outlets such as TIME, the BBC, IB Times, al-Jazeera, the L.A. Times, and U.S. News and World Report on cultural heritage issues, Islamic art, antiquities, and the history of sectarian relations in Islam. Professor Stephennie Mulder


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