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The Environment and Ecology in Islamic Art and Culture

The Environment and Ecology in Islamic Art and Culture

Date(s) - 11/08/2021 - 11/15/2021
10:00 am

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by VCUarts, VCUarts Qatar, and the Qatar Foundation

The 9th Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art / Online November 8 – 15, 2021 / This live event is free and open to the public.

About this event

The Environment and Ecology in Islamic Art and Culture, the 9th Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, takes place live online on Zoom from November 8 – 15, 2021. For a daily schedule of events, a list of speakers and their presentation descriptions, please visit the event website, All presentations are followed by an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

About the Ninth Biennial HBK Symposium on Islamic Art

An eco-conscious ethos is intrinsic to Islamic scripture and culture. This sensitivity profoundly influences the relationship between human beings, deputized as stewards of nature by Allah, and the environment they inhabit. Historical and contemporary Islamic visual traditions have demonstrated this consciousness in urban planning, landscape architecture, water management, and many other art forms. Despite this awareness, in the present epoch of the Anthropocene, human intervention has caused irreparable damage to the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems. As art history shifts its disciplinary attention to the unfolding global crisis, this symposium considers how an ecological art history can examine objects, materials, and the built environment through the lens of Islamic culture. It also seeks to push beyond binaries of human/non-human and culture/nature in which the human and the cultural are privileged over other species and the natural world. Humans, within this ontological framework, are part of the environment and in possession of unique capacities necessary to address climate change, sustainability, and environmental conservation.

Symposium Co-Chairs

Radha Dalal, Interim Director of Art History and Associate Professor of Islamic Art (VCUarts Qatar); Jochen Sokoly, Associate Professor of Islamic Art (VCUarts Qatar); and Sean Roberts, Lecturer in Early Modern Art (University of Tennessee) and Affiliated Associate Professor (VCUarts Qatar).

Monday, November 8 / 10am – 11:30am EST / 6pm – 7:30pm AST

Keynote Address: Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT. Presentation title: The Quest for Thermal Delight.

Tuesday, November 9 / 10am – 1:30pm EST / 6pm – 9:30pm AST

Rebecca Zorach, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, Northwestern University. Presentation title: “A luminous golden spirit owns us”: Legal Sculpting and the Rights of Nature.

Farid Esmaeil, Founding Partner and Principal Architect, X Architects. Presentation title: Context as a ‘Form’ Generator.

T.J. Demos, Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz. Presentation title: War Ecology: Petropolitics and Contemporary Art in the Middle East

Wednesday, November 10 / 10am – 12:40pm / 6pm – 8:40pm AST

D. Fairchild Ruggles, Debra Mitchell Endowed Chair in Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Presentation title: Cultivars and Calamities in al-Andalus: On Nature and Human Will.

Yusen Yu, Lecturer in Iranian Islamic Art History, University of St Andrews. Presentation title: Flora and Fauna in Timurid Painting.

Stephane Pradines, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC), London. Presentation title: Coral Mosques and Indian Ocean Maritime Resources, from the Maldives to the Swahili Coast

Alexander Brey, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Wellesley College. Presentation title: Gushing Pools and Verdant Meadows: Rural Estates and the Reshaping of Umayyad Rural Landscapes.

Thursday, November 11 / 10am – 12:40pm / 6pm – 8:40pm AST

Anna M. Gade, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Education in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin. Presentation title: Truth of Consequences: The Floating Mosque and Material Ethics.

Nada Shabout, Regent Professor of Art History and Coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI), University of North Texas. Presentation title: A Threatened Imaginary: Environmental Interventions in Iraqi Art.

Huma Gupta, Lecturer at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the MIT. Presentation title: Visualizing Maʻdan in Mayzara: The Hidden History of Urban ‘Wetlands’ in Baghdad.

Rachel Winter, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara. Presentation title: Aestheticizing the Ecologies of the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Friday, November 12 / 10am – 1pm EST / 6pm – 9pm AST

Amanda Boetzkes, Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Guelph. Presentation title: Behind the Sun: The Theater of Oil Expenditure.

Elizabeth Rauh, Assistant Professor of Modern Art and Visual Cultures, American University in Cairo. Presentation title: Iridescent Modernism: The Troubling Artistic Legacy of Pearl Diving in the Persian Gulf.

Pamela Karimi, Associate Professor, Art Education, Art History and Media Studies, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Presentation title: Survival by Design: Oil Crisis, the Middle East, and the US Quest for Lunar Settlements.

Michelle Apotsos, Associate Professor of Art, Williams College. Presentation title: “The Earth is a Masjid”: Tanzania’s First Eco-Mosque as Environmental Advocate.

Nisa Ari, Beinecke Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. Presentation title: Wasteland, Promised Land, Homeland: Painting “Flora Palaestina” Before the Nakba

Monday, November 15 / 8 – 9:15am EST / 4 – 5:15pm AST

Roundtable Conversation with the artists Tarek Al-Ghoussein and Camille Zakharia, and Jochen Sokoly, Associate Professor of Islamic Art, VCUarts Qatar, moderated by Holiday Powers and Monica Merlin, Assistant Professors of Art History at VCUarts Qatar. The artists’ work is the subject of an exhibition at VCUarts Qatar titled Landscapes of Arabia: Camille Zakhariya and Tarek Al-Ghoussein, curated by Jochen Sokoly.

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