Public Lecture Events

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud to present our annual public lecture series online. Though we miss gathering for intellectual exchange in-person at our facility in Amman, we are pleased to offer this unprecedented opportunity for international virtual connection regarding research in Jordan.

This page is continuously updated, so please check back soon for more information about upcoming presentations. For consistent notification of the latest news and events, sign up for our mailing list.

Figural wall painting at Qusayr ‘Amra
Dr. Nadia Ali

“Qusayr ‘Amra: The Pandora’s Box of Early Islamic Aesthetics”

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. Amman local time / 12:00 (Noon) p.m. EDT

Since its discovery in 1897, the early Islamic bath house of Qusayr ‘Amra (Jordan; AD 730s) has been celebrated for its figural wall paintings, the meanings of which have been much debated. Following the spectacular discoveries of new images after the recent cleaning of the paintings, Nadia Ali has identified scenes inspired by the Aethiopica, a 4th-century romance composed by Heliodorus, a Syrian outsider from Emesa (modern Homs) assimilated within Greco-Roman culture. Taking this discovery as its starting point, the lecture looks in two directions: forward, to new and emerging ways to examine images and texts together, and backward, to earlier efforts expended in understanding the paintings. It thus aims to illuminate a history of what Qusayr ‘Amra has been, as well as to generate a new vision of what it might become.

About the speaker:
Nadia Ali is an associate researcher based at the IREMAM, University of Aix-Marseille, and studies the emergence of early Islamic art in the context of late antiquity. She was trained in art history, Islamic studies, and Arabic at the University of Aix-Marseille. Her educational and professional background spans France, the Middle East, the USA, Germany, and the UK. From 2018 to 2020, she was a faculty fellow at Silsila: Center for Material Histories (New York University). Before that, she was a postdoctoral researcher in the five-year Empires of Faith project based at Oxford University and the British Museum (2013–2018). She has just completed her first book, provisionally entitled Qusayr ‘Amra: The Pandora’s Box of Early Islamic Aesthetics, and she is currently working on a new book project, which has been in progress on and off for a decade now: Potent Images in Late Antique Arabia.

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“Excavating Abila: Past, Present, and Future”

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. Amman local time / 12:00 p.m. EDT

This lecture has already occurred.

Abila, Abila in the Decapolis, is most well known as one of the cities of the Hellenistic league known as the Decapolis, and then as the home of five prominent churches during the Byzantine period. The Decapolis was a group of ten cities (Abila, Damascus, Dion, Gerasa, Gadara, HipposPella, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis) that formed a Hellenistic or Greco-Roman confederation or league located south of the Sea of Galilee in the Transjordan. Abila lies about three miles south of the Yarmuk River (nahr el-Yarmuk), the modern border between Jordan and Syria. This talk presents a brief overview of the past 40 years of excavations at this site, and provides an update on current work. The speaker will also map out plans for future archaeological work at the site.

About the speaker: Professor David Vila joined John Brown University in the Fall of 1999 from Saint Louis University where he completed a Ph.D. in Historical Theology.  His dissertation, Christian Martyrs in the First Abbasid Century and the Development of an Apologetic Against Islam, focused on early Christian-Muslim relations, especially as seen in the hagiography of the period.  He spent the 1995-96 academic year on a Fulbright grant in Jordan, studying Arabic and working on his dissertation.  Since 1990, David has been involved with an archaeological excavation in northern Jordan at the ancient site of Abila of the Decapolis.  During the 2006-2007 academic year David was a Fulbright Scholar appointed to the Department of Archaeology at Jordan University.  In 2008, he was named Director of the Abila Archaeological Project and has been leading the excavation ever since.  He also directs the Jordan Summer Studies Program at his university which provides the opportunity for students to work with the excavation at Abila while earning academic credit. 

Check our YouTube Page for a recording of this talk!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our winter–spring 2021 online lecture series! In case you missed any of these fascinating presentations, you can find summaries and recordings through Insights.

Online lectures on demand

Did you know ACOR has over 40 recordings of past academic presentations, available for free on our YouTube channel? Click here to see our video list, including short presentations from virtual academic conferences (e.g., ASOR and MESA) as well as feature lecture events previously held at ACOR in recent years.

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