All panels will be held in the same Zoom meeting at the times indicated below. There will be brief intermissions from 11:00am – 11:30am (between panels 1 and 2) and 1:00pm – 2:00pm (between panels 2 and 3) to allow for a coffee break and lunch. This event is co-sponsored by The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.
Textiles are fundamental to the histories of the Middle East, Islamic societies, and the broader cross-cultural networks which they wove together. This day-long, interdisciplinary symposium investigates the theoretical and practical aspects of textiles, including their design, production, taxation, circulation, trade, and consumption, as well as connections to court performance, domestic and ethno-national spaces, gender, rituals, and textual discourses. Through an examination of diverse manifestations of the fiber arts, panelists will trace, analyze and reflect on their cultural, social, economic and political significance for the Middle East and the Islamic world more broadly.
Panel 1: Silk, Felt, and Turko-Mongol Identities
9:30am – 11:00am
This panel highlights the use of textiles (including felt) as markers of authority and legitimacy in the Turko-Mongol spheres. Participants will explore how the use of particular textiles and attire embodied notions of rulership and charisma, reflecting the long-lasting impact of the Chingizid world over diverse geographical places and times. The papers presented by the panel will span the geographic areas of Mongolia, Iran, Central Asia, and Mughal India.
Mika Natif – The George Washington University
Ron Sela – Indiana University
Eiren Shea – Grinnell College
Elizabeth Dospěl Williams – Dumbarton Oaks Museum
Panel 2: Textiles and the Production of Premodern and Early Modern Spaces
11:30am – 1:00pm
This panel will investigate how textile production, circulation/trade, consumption (including but not limited to use as furnishings and sartorial performances), and preservation (e.g. museum practices) are integral to the production of (interrelated) spatial ontologies, including domestic, ethno-national, and inter-regional spaces.
Attiya Ahmad – The George Washington University
Patricia Blessing – Princeton University
Richard Bulliet – Columbia University
Nader Sayadi – Metropolitan Museum of Art
Panel 3: Texts, Textiles, and Trade in the Medieval Islamic World
2:00pm – 3:30pm
Spanning Fatimid, Mamluk, and early Ottoman periods, this panel will bring into conversation work on labor/production/taxation on rural farms with the lettered culture and commercial practices of long-distance traders. A sub-theme that panelists will be asked to explore is how textiles and the textile trade were both generative of and contingent upon certain textual discourses.
Joel Blecher – The George Washington University
Lorenzo Bondioli – University of Cambridge
Amanda Phillips – University of Virginia
Sumru Krody – The Textile Museum
Mika Natif is Associate Professor of Art History at The George Washington University. A specialist in Islamic art, Mika Natif focuses on the intercultural exchanges and global connections that Muslim societies forged with the European sphere during the premodern period. Her primary field of research is Islamic painting, with special interest in Central Asia, Iran, India, and the Mediterranean. Natif recently published her book titled Mughal Occidentalism: Artistic Encounters Between Europe and Asia at the Courts of India, 1580-1630 (Leiden: Brill, 2018). Her current research explores notions of images, diversity, and religious tolerance in the arts of Mughal India, female portraiture, and the role of women as patrons and artists in the pre-modern Persianate spheres. She also co-edited and co-authored, with Francesca Leoni, Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art (Surrey: Ashgate Publications, October 2013).
Ron Sela is Associate Professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, where he serves also as Director of the Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies. Sela researches and teaches the history and historiography of Muslim peoples and communities, primarily in Central Asia and its neighboring regions. Among his publications, The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Eiren Shea is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Grinnell College, where she offers classes on the arts of pre-modern Asia. Her research interests include the arts and visual cultures of East Asia from the 10th-16th centuries, Asian textiles, and premodern cultural exchange. Her recent book, Mongol Court Dress, Identity Formation, and Global Exchange (Routledge, 2020) investigates the role of dress in the Mongol Empire and the impact of Mongol textiles on Asian and European art and society.
Elizabeth Dospěl Williams is associate curator for the Byzantine Collection at Dumbarton Oaks. She was coeditor and contributor to the born-digital Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection and the volume, Liminal Fabric: Byzantine and Early Islamic Furnishing Textiles. In 2019, she co-curated two exhibitions, Ornament: Fragments of Byzantine Fashion (held at Dumbarton Oaks) and Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt (co-organized with the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum). Dospěl Williams received her PhD in Byzantine and Islamic art history and archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Attiya Ahmad is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at The George Washington University (Washington DC, USA). Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the gendered interrelation of Islamic reform movements and political economic processes spanning the Middle East and South Asia, in particular the greater Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. Dr. Ahmad is currently working on a project focusing on the development of global halal tourism networks. She is the author of Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work, and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait (Duke Press, 2017), and is on the editorial boards of Feminist Studies, The Journal of Middle East Women's Studies and Anthropological Quarterly.
Patricia Blessing is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History in the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University. Her first book, Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rūm, 1240–1330 (2014) investigates the relationship between patronage, politics, and architectural style after the integration of the region into the Mongol empire. Her second book, Architecture and Material Politics in the Fifteenth-century Ottoman Empire is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in July 2022. Blessing’s current research examines the intersection between textiles, architecture, and objects in late medieval Islamic architecture with a particular focus on interiors.
Richard Bulliet is Emeritus Professor of History at Columbia University., He focuses on the economic, social, and technological history of the Islamic world, with special emphasis on Iran and the rise of the Iranian cotton industry after the Arab conquest in the seventh century CE.
Nader Sayadi is a post-doctoral fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He is a specialist in art, architecture, and urban history of the early modern Global South, concentrating on modes of production and consumption in the Islamic world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His academic and professional background is in historic preservation, architectural design, and textile history. His research interests include the built environment and the material culture of manufacturing, commerce, and trade.
Joel Blecher is Assistant Professor of History at The George Washington University. He is a scholar of Islamic history and Islamic thought. His research, which combines methods from social and intellectual history, is grounded in archives and field sites in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and India, as well as various manuscript libraries across Europe and North America.
Lorenzo Bondioli is a Research Fellow at Peterhouse College, University of Cambridge. He is a social and economic historian of the premodern Middle East working on the longue durée history of capital accumulation in noncapitalist societies. His research investigates the political economy of Islamic empires, focusing in particular on the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171 CE). Deploying documentary sources from both the metropole (the Cairo Geniza) and the countryside (the so-called Egyptian papyri), Bondioli reconstructs property relations, labor regimes, forms of investment, and structures of taxation, aiming to paint a holistic picture of the social relations undergirding commodity production and distribution.
Amanda Phillips is Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Material Culture at University of Virginia. She has held fellowships from the British Academy, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Max Planck Foundation. Her fellowship with Marie-Curie/Gerda Henkel Foundation, for work at the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art, resulted in the publication of her first monograph, Everyday Luxuries (2016), about the consumption of art and objects in Ottoman Constantinople. Amanda’s second book, Sea Change: Ottoman Textiles Between the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, came out last year with the University of California Press.
Sumru Krody is Senior Curator of The Textile Museum Collection. Krody joined The Textile Museum in 1994 and was appointed senior curator in 2011. She is editor in chief of The Textile Museum Journal. She also teaches courses in the Art History Program at GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Born in Izmir, Turkey, Krody specializes in textiles from the late antique era and from the Islamic world. She has curated or co-curated 13 exhibitions, including A Nomad’s Art: Kilims of Anatolia; Binding the Clouds: The Art of Central Asian Ikat; Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories; The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art; and Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats. She has authored or co-authored seven exhibition-related publications, along with numerous articles and book chapters. Krody holds a bachelor’s degree in classical archaeology from Istanbul University and a master’s in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Textile Society of America and Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens.