Separating fact and fiction in Islamic art
Last week Stephennie Mulder, who teaches the history of Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, was in Ireland to deliver the annual Chester Beatty lecture.
The subject was her multiple-award-winning book, The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria. Originally published in 2014, the volume has just been published in a paperback edition – the hardback sold out and is currently being reprinted.
At first glance it may seem like a niche subject, yet it has attracted a great deal of attention beyond academic circles. As Mulder is keen to emphasise, it has much greater resonance than you might expect, in the context of the recent history of the Middle East, and the general misapprehension of Islamic culture in the West.
Originally from Salt Lake City, Mulder began her studies, which eventually encompassed art history, archaeology, anthropology and Arabic, in Utah, and went on to Princeton and Pennsylvania (she’s been teaching in Austin since 2008). What prompted her interest in Islamic art and culture?
“It’s really simple. I took a class in Islamic civilization and I realized immediately that it was something that had been missing from my education. I mean, I knew China and India had long, rich histories, for example, but the Islamic world, in contrast, had been largely written out of the history we were taught. My history of art textbook had 17 pages on Islamic art in its totality, and about 60 on ancient Roman art alone.”
Read more at the source
The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is and the Architecture of Coexistence by Stephennie Mulder is published by Edinburgh University Press