UNT welcomes two renowned professors to discuss Islamic art and politics in the Middle East

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 15:49

What: UNT's Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute hosts "By the Pen: The Art of Writing in Islamic Art," a lecture by Sheila Blair, Boston College professor of Islamic and Asian art. The lecture discusses the ways artists and craftsmen of the Islamic cultures have used writing to decorate buildings and objects.

When: 4-5 p.m. April 24 (Thursday)

Where: The Forum at Willis Library, 1506 Highland Ave., Denton

Cost: Free

What else: This lecture will be presented in conjunction with another lecture, "The Invention of Sectarianism as a Problem in the Middle East," from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Forum. Dr. Ussama Makdisi of Rice University will present the lecture.


DENTON, Texas (UNT) – Writing as decoration that adorns everything from simple dishes to expensive works of art will be the subject of a lecture by renowned scholar of Islamic art at UNT on April 24 (Thursday).

UNT's Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute welcomes Sheila Blair, Boston College professor of Islamic and Asian art, for the free lecture "By the Pen: The Art of Writing in Islamic Art."

Blair will discuss the history and continued use of writing by artists and craftsmen to decorate all types of buildings and objects. The lecture illustrates some of the ways they have done so, transforming writing into one of the most distinctive features of Islamic visual culture.

The lecture will include a talk about the different subjects that artists chose to inscribe on various buildings and objects, from mosques to minbars (an imam's pulpit) to dishes and dress. Blair will discuss why writing in Arabic script is a hallmark of Islamic art and architecture and why artists and craftsmen go through great pains to add inscriptions.

The lecture will be from 4-5 p.m. at The Forum at Willis Library, 1506 Highland Ave., Denton. The program is sponsored by the Aga Khan Council for the Central United States and UNT.

The lecture will be followed by another talk titled "The Invention of Sectarianism as a Problem of the Middle East," by Dr. Ussama Makdisi of Rice University. The talk takes place from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Forum at Willis Library. Makdisi is a professor of history and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice. Author of Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, Makdisi's work explores missed opportunities for cultural understanding. By retrieving unused historical evidence and by juxtaposing for the first time Arab perspectives and archives with American ones, his work counters a notion of an inevitable clash of civilizations and thus reshapes the view of the history of America in the Arab world.

The Makdisi lecture is part of the Global Studies Faculty Seminar, an initiative to bring scholars of various disciplinary backgrounds together for necessary discussions on globalization, global connections and exclusions, and inter-cultural encounters. The discussions range from issues in current scholarship to pedagogical improvements in global studies classrooms. To find out more visit the Global Studies Faculty Seminar website/a>.

About Sheila Blair

Blair teaches about all aspects of Islamic art from the seventh century to modern times. She offers surveys on Islamic art, architecture, and urbanism, as well as research seminars on the Silk Road, the Islamic book, and the arts of the object. She has written or co-written 17 books, including several international award winners, and more than 200 articles in journals, encyclopedias, colloquia and festschriften. She served as an artistic consultant to the three-hour documentary Islam: Empire of Faith, shown nationally on PBS.

About the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute

CAMCSI is an interdisciplinary institute composed of faculty drawn from the visual arts, social sciences and humanities at UNT. CAMCSI serves as the coordinating body and the primary source of support for the various courses and academic programs that cover the Arab and Muslim worlds, which include the Arab states, Iran, Turkey, central and south Asia and other parts of the world with Muslim communities. The institute was established in 2008 with a research and service mission, to respond to the critical need for the understanding and further the interdisciplinary studies of the contemporary Arab and Muslim worlds at UNT.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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