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Initiatives Workshop 2
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Teaching Islamic Art Workshop

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  Sheffield Hallam


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9 May 2003

Victoria & Albert Museum, London


Workshop Participants

Rowan Roenisch, De Montfort University

Rowan Roenisch is subject leader for History of Art and Material Culture and teaches history of architecture.

De Montfort University has been working with GLAADH to further develop the cultural diversity already offered in its curriculum and to present examples of innovative teaching practices. For more information see:

The department is in the midst of expanding the curriculum and writing a totally new one for 2004 - so the Hillenbrand workshop comes in excellent time. The information and ideas gained from the workshop will be fed into the first year curriculum where architectural history is introduced, and then picked up later in more detailed studies at year-two and three which are taught by PRASADA. For more information about PRASADA see:

Crispin Branfoot, De Montfort University

I am a specialist in Indian art at De Montfort University. I teach Indian art primarily at MA level, but contribute a course on Indian art and design and other individual lectures in a number of BA courses to history of art, architecture, fine art and design students.

I would very much like to know more about the teaching of Islamic art in order to:

  • Enhance my knowledge of this field, especially architecture and painting in the Eastern Islamic world, to enhance my teaching of Indo-Islamic topics, for I am a specialist in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
  • Gain ideas on how to present non-Western art to students primarily studying Western and European art and design.

I would use the information from this workshop in the Indo-Islamic elements of my existing teaching of introductory Indian art, and in order to develop further teaching at BA level (years 1-3) for art historians, architects and art and design students in Islamic art. This will be integrated in small sections throughout the revised undergraduate (globalised) curriculum at DMU from 2004.

Sue Malvern, University of Reading

Paul Davies, University of Reading

It is our intention to develop a new level two, 20 credit module, in the undergraduate BA History of Art and Architecture, provisionally titled 'Islam and the Mediterranean', jointly taught by Sue Malvern and Paul Davies. It is proposed to attempt bringing this on-line in the academic year 2004-5 and to pilot some material in 2003-04 in a level one module on art and art histories.

Paul Davies specialises in Italian Renaissance architecture. He teaches courses on Brunellschi, Italian art and architecture in Rome, Florence and Venice and an MA on Italy and the classical tradition. Sue Malvern specialises in art of the modern period and teaches courses on museums, art, war and gender, modern and contemporary art, and an MA on, the body and representation.

Our proposed new module on Islam and the Mediterranean will be a major initiative extending the coverage of the department's teaching beyond Western art. We would report back on the workshop in May within the department, to which we would invite sessional lecturers as well as colleagues who would be interested in discussing how to develop new teaching initiatives. Robert Hillenbrand's workshop is a very timely and highly appropriate for our curriculum development.

Anthony Eastmond, Byzantine Studies, University of Warwick

I teach medieval and Byzantine art and already teach a small amount of Islamic art when looking at pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem. I attended the workshop at the V&A to get ideas about ways of expanding the teaching of islamic art that I do. I am planning a course which will combine Christian and Islamic art and questions of artistic interchange in the Eastern Mediterranean.

John Mitchell, School of World Art and Museology, University of East Anglia

I have carried out extensive research and teach a number of courses at UEA on early medieval and late antique art and architecture. I have never systematically studied Islamic art, but took a post graduate unit on the subject with Oleg Grabar at Harvard. Since then I have been actively interested in all aspects of Islamic visual arts, in a tangential way, in the context of my principal work on the arts of the late antique and early Mediterranean and northern Europe.

My courses on late antique and early medieval art are on the whole restricted to the Latin and Greek speaking areas of the Mediterranean basin, as well as northern Europe. I have ventured into the Islamic world (palace and elite residences; mosque; writing and the deployment of script) in my taught MA, and occasionally in a very minor way at BA level. I have recently been considering increasing the Islamic element in a number of my courses at first-year level. This would include adjusting the present introductory late antique and early medieval seminar which focuses on Rome and Byzantium, to consist of roughly three equal parts: Rome and the West; Byzantium; and Islam.

At second-year level, the Art and Architecture in the Age of Charlemagne course will be revised to include a substantial eastern counter-element on Islam in the age of Harun al Rashid, 8th and 9th centuries. A new BA course, the Arts of the Book, will also include two or three sessions out of ten on Islam. At third-year the Icon and Identity course, a special subject concerned with late Roman and very early Medieval issues, will be revised to incorporate an Islamic element. Finally, in the MA Cultural Strategies and the First Millennium course, I intend to make the Islamic elements normative, either in the form of the early Islamic eastern and southern Mediterranean, or Islamic Spain.

In attending the Hillenbrand workshop I hope to gain a fuller idea of contemporary thinking on how Islamic visual culture can be approached, i.e. present paradigms of research and teaching, with the aim of incorporating this thinking and material into my teaching.

Paul Shakeshaft, Anglia Polytechnic University

As part of the department's drive to create greater cultural diversity in the curriculum, a third-level course has been introduced which, amongst other things, looks at the relationship between 15th and 16th century Islamic religious schools and the contemporary European universities, focusing on King's College, Cambridge and its Chapel. (For more information see the APU GLAADH reports: .htm) The Hillenbrand workshop would therefore be of great interest to me in connection with this module. Thus far, one of the students has carried out some preliminary research, leading to a 3000-word comparison of the architecture of the Islamic madrasa and King's College. The results of the research were presented to the student group, which was fascinated. It has to be said that this student had become better informed than I was.

Thomas Dowson, University of Manchester

Thomas Dowson is a lecturer in the School of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Manchester. His principal area of research is prehistoric rock art. He is also interested in the interdisciplinary intersections of art history and archaeology, and advocates an archaeology of art that challenges the Euro-centric 'story of art'. Dowson has also been working, with the support of GLAADH, to expand the art history curriculum at Manchester and has initiated a wider set of introductory lectures in the first year to encompass non-western traditions, and is developing a new course on African art (see: ). He would like to take part in this workshop to extend his teaching of non-Western arts. In particular, he teaches a second year course called "the archaeology of art and representation" in which he would like to include Byzantine material.

Mark Leahy, Middlesex University

I teach visual culture modules to first year and third year students at Cat Hill, Middlesex, across a range of Design disciplines. I would like to introduce more non-Western material into seminars on Space where the architectural organisation of Islamic buildings would be interesting. I would also like to introduce a consideration of Islamic art and architecture to a module section that discusses Orders and Institutions in which the relationship between religion and design and between social organisation and the production of visual culture could be expanded. Given that a significant proportion of the students, particularly on the Textiles courses, are from Islamic family or cultural backgrounds, I would also like to be able to increase the depth of my knowledge on these topics. Finally, I have referred students to resources in the library at SOAS in the past but would like more information about resources that I might pass on.

Elizabeth James, Byzantine Studies, University of Sussex

Mariam Rosser-Owen, Assistant Curator, Middle East Section, Victoria & Albert Museum

Francis Pugh, Conference and Academic Events Organiser, Victoria & Albert Museum

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