Islam and the Humanities

Conference 2015

Kishwar Rizvi

Associate Professor of History of Art, Yale University

Historicism and Post-modernity: Transnational Mosques in the Contemporary Middle East

Among the current debates on Islam is the reinterpretation of history, which is often linked to an idealized age of Caliphal rule, the painful legacy of colonialism, or imagined regional alliances. They hinge upon contested definitions of identity, where governments and communities of belief compete for the dissemination of their own version of an Islamic past, present, and future. The contestation is expressed rhetorically and monumentalized through the construction of public institutions, foremost among which is the mosque. In this talk I focus on key nations in the Middle East and the manner in which their state mosques both reaffirm religious praxis and participate in the construction of nationalist ideology. These mosques also reveal the religious and political alliances that are formed locally and world-wide, bringing to the fore the complex transnational connections that define the contemporary Middle East.

Kishwar Rizvi is associate professor of Islamic art and architecture at Yale University. She has written on representations of religious and imperial authority in Safavid Iran, as well as on issues of gender, nationalism and religious identity in modern Iran and Pakistan. She is the author of The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: History, Religion and Architecture in Early Modern Iran (London: British Institute for Persian Studies, I. B. Tauris, 2011) and editor of Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and Politics in the Twentieth Century (University of Washington Press, 2008), which was awarded a Graham Foundation publication grant. Her new book is The Transnational Mosque: Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East (University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming Fall 2015), for which she was selected as a Carnegie Foundation Scholar. Her fieldwork includes research in several parts of the Middle East, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.