In the medieval Islamic world, as elsewhere, objects could both reflect and help constitute leaders’ conceptions of power. Yet Islamic material culture and its political implications have traditionally been studied in distinct ways in different fields, and are rarely discussed in comparative ways. This symposium will bring together several of the leading scholars of Islamic material culture from around the world for a series of interdisciplinary conversations about the relationships between people in power and the objects they produced, commissioned or collected. These objects, ranging from coins to textiles to portable luxury goods and religious relics, presented rulers’ visions of righteous authority to their courts, subjects and rivals. Objects could link rulers to past dynasties or to other contemporary figures. As they moved through time and space, often by diplomatic exchange or by diffusion into other segments of society, objects accrued new meanings and powers. This symposium will bring together art historians, archaeologists, historians and scholars of Islamic studies to historicize objects that played important roles in the construction of power in medieval Islam.

Peter N. Miller
Dean and Professor, Bard Graduate Center

Abigail Krasner Balbale
Bard Graduate Center

Mariam Rosser-Owen
Asian Department (Middle East), Victoria & Albert Museum
Artistic Patronage and Political Legitimacy: The Case of the ‘Āmirid Regents of al-Andalus, c. 970-1010

Jochen Sokoly
Art History and Gallery Director, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar
The Blessed Robe: Caliphal Benevolence at the Fatimid Court

Stefan Heidemann
Islamic Studies, Universität Hamburg
Images of Power: Currency of Fame and Currency of Daily Use

Timothy Insoll
Archaeology, University of Manchester
Objects and Power in the Archaeology of Sub-Saharan African Islam

Panel Discussion: Texts as Objects, Objects as Texts
Moderator: Roy Mottahedeh, History, Harvard University

Abigail Krasner Balbale
Bard Graduate Center

Tamer el-Leithy
Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, New York University

Finbarr B. Flood
Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History, New York University

Chase Robinson
Interim President and Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York Graduate Center

This symposium is made possible by Seran and Ravi Trehan.