Introduction: The Historiography of Islamic Art and Architecture, 2012

By Carey, Moya; Graves, Margaret S. | Journal of Art Historiography, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Introduction: The Historiography of Islamic Art and Architecture, 2012


Carey, Moya, Graves, Margaret S., Journal of Art Historiography


The present volume of studies has evolved from what was originally a fairly modest panel proposal for the 2010 Association of Art Historians annual conference held in Glasgow, seeking to survey the state of the field by inviting papers that dealt with the historiography of scholarship on the art of the pre-modern Islamic world but also accepting presentations of current research that were not primarily concerned with historiography. The very open-ended nature of the original Call for Papers reflects the fact that one of our main aims at that point was simply to address the absence of any dedicated Islamic art history panel at an AAH annual conference since Robert Hillenbrand's panel at the 2000 conference held in Edinburgh,1 an omission that we saw as unhappily reflecting both the Eurocentrism and modern/contemporary biases of the AAH, and the apparent disinterest of some of the practitioners in our field (particularly, perhaps, in the United Kingdom) towards the critical dialogues taking place in the larger field of art history. We remain grateful for the generous support of Iran Heritage Foundation and the University of Edinburgh, which allowed us to assemble a full AAH panel of Islamic art historians once again. Even after the rather dramatic intervention of the Icelandic volcano lost us two of our speakers to the giant ash-cloud which grounded all flights in the western hemisphere, we did in the end have a panel that included excellent papers on a wide variety of subjects, some of which have gone on to appear in print elsewhere. However, the majority of the papers presented did not deal with historiography per se.

It was at this panel that we were first approached by the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Art Historiography, Richard Woodfield, who invited us to act as guest editors for a special edition of the journal on the historiography of Islamic art. Stimulated by the possibilities offered by Richard's egalitarian scholarly enterprise of an open-access peer-reviewed e-journal, we circulated a new Call for Papers articulating what we perceived to be the urgent need for a critical interrogation of the field that would build on the landmark studies in historiography published since the 1990s, as well as indicating future directions for the discipline. The results of this exercise are now before you, and this introduction will seek not only to outline briefly the articles themselves, but also to pull together some of the major thematic strands to have emerged from this collection and provide some reflection on the state of the discipline thus framed. The volume has been divided into four thematic sections and this introductory discussion will loosely follow the themes by which the articles have been grouped, expanding particularly on the issues of canon formation and perpetuation that have formed something of a leitmotif throughout the assembled works.

The growing reflexivity of the rapidly expanding field of Islamic art history can be seen in a host of recent publications, notably the volume edited by Stephen Vernoit, Discovering Islamic Art: Scholars, Collectors and Collections, 1850-1950 (2000), and the 2000 issue of Ars Orientalis guest-edited by Linda Komaroffand titled Exhibiting the Middle East: Collections and Perceptions of Islamic Art, as well as a number of landmark articles.2 For this reason we have chosen to reproduce in the Documents section at the end of the present volume some of the most frequently cited discussions of the historiography of the field to have appeared in print in the last decade. The four texts in question are reproduced here without any editorial intervention beyond the inclusion of an erratum statement in one and a brief introductory paragraph provided by the authors in another, and are intended to act as a comprehensive sourcebook for those who wish to study the field's historiography. We are deeply grateful to the authors and publishers of these pieces for making them available for inclusion in this context. …

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