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.

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SPRING LECTURE SERIES

“History Disjointed: Mapping Art Histories in the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey”

Monday, April 25, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. Amman local time / 10:00 a.m. EDT

With the increasing interest in the modern and contemporary arts of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey, the need for the field’s historiography is vital. As it stands now, it seems that this historiography is being developed mostly in the diaspora. The imbalance of this situation prompts inquiry into the state of the discipline of art history in the region. Throughout the Middle East and North African region there are many academic art programs in institutions of higher education that have been training generations of artists and educators. While some have a long history, others have been initiated only recently.

The ongoing Mapping Art Histories in the Arab World, Iran and Turkey project aims to compile information about teaching art history across 14 countries in the region and make that data available for scholars, researchers and students in order to develop a better understanding of global art history. Funded by the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative, the project works toward a more inclusive understanding of how art history is perceived and art historiographies in the region is negotiated. This presentation initiates a space to discuss challenges both practical and theoretical, as well as comments on the state of the field and its definitions and episteme. It unpacks the role of art history as a discipline within the region, connecting disciplinary initiatives within the region and diaspora, and contributing to continuing discussions on the possibilities for decolonizing art history within the academy and beyond.

About the speaker:

Nada Shabout is a Regent Professor of Art History and the coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas. She is the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA) and founding director of Modern Art Iraq Archive. She is a curator and author of numerous essays and books and is currently working on a new book and project, “Demarcating Modernism in Iraqi Art: The Dialectics of the Decorative.” Shabout is on the board of directors, Visual Art Commission, Ministry of Culture, Saudi Arabia; the board of The Academic Research Institute in Iraq; and the College Art Association (CAA) board of directors (2020–2024). She received the 2020 Kuwait Prize for Arts and Literature from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.


“Funerary Dining or Offerings for the Dead? Archaeobotanical Evidence from the Shaft Tombs at Petra, Jordan”

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 7:00 pm Amman local time / 12:00 noon EST

There is extensive evidence from Hellenistic and Roman literary sources for the practice of funerary dining and the provisioning of offerings to the dead. Mortuary behaviors have generally relied on ceramic and faunal remains but rarely are they explored using evidence from plants. This lecture seeks to gain a better understanding of the role of plants in this type of ritual context through the analysis of botanical remains recovered from Nabataean tomb contexts in Petra. Analysis of samples taken from several tombs that were excavated over three seasons (2012, 2014 & 2016) indicates the presence of a variety foodstuff such as Triticum sp. (wheats), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Lens culinaris (lentil), Vitis vinifera (grape), Ficus carica (fig) and Phoenix dactylifera (date). These finds provide intriguing evidence of plants consumed or offered to the dead during ritual events. This study, in association with the analysis of bioarchaeological remains and ceramics, expands our knowledge of Nabataean funerary practices and contributes to a broader understanding of the role of plants in ritual funerary events in the ancient world.

About the speaker:

Dr. Jennifer Ramsay (Ph.D. in 2008) is Associate Professor and chair of the anthropology department at SUNY Brockport (State University of New York). Jennifer received the Archaeological Institute of America’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2019 and two State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching (2014) and Excellence in Faculty Service (2020). Her area of expertise centers on the use of archaeobotany, subsistence reconstruction, trade patterns, environmental change, and land-use patterns to gain insight into lifeways of past societies. Although she specializes in the Roman and Late Antique world, Jennifer has also analyzed and published plant material from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, and Islamic periods. Over her career, she has participated in many archaeological excavation projects in Jordan, Israel and Italy at such sites as Petra, Pompeii and Caesarea Marittima.


“Polytemporality, Polyvocality and Connecting the Ancient and Contemporary Middle East”

Tuesday, February 8, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. Amman local time / 12:00 noon EST

Museums are being called upon to become more relevant, address contemporary concerns, relinquish neutrality, and abandon the fallacy of timelessness. Consequently, in the United States there has recently been an increase of art exhibitions that specifically respond to or represent contemporary affairs. Specifically, interpretation in art exhibition from the Middle East (whether ancient, Islamic, modern, or contemporary) has been used to address these concerns in exhibition spaces. This is both unique and surprising because it works against the long-held belief that museum visitors are removed from the concerns of their daily lives, because it surrenders any claim to museum neutrality, and because the inclusion of contemporary affairs has the potential to alienate funders and audiences. 

Employing a structural justice approach, this lecture examines the role of exhibition interpretation and the possible effects of polytemporality and polyvocality in The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East (March 18–June 23, 2019) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rooted in interpretation theory and new museology and drawing on exhibition visits and interviews with curators, this talk argues that the future relevance in art-museum exhibition could be in interpretation, which is critical to the accessibility of an exhibition, responsible for the meanings audiences create, and is essential in linking the familiar with the unfamiliar. 

About the speaker:
Melissa Forstrom, PhD, is an assistant professor at Purchase College-State University of New York, where she teaches museum studies and arts management courses. Recently, she coedited and contributed to Museum Innovation (Routledge, 2021), has authored a handful of academic chapters and articles, and is under contract with Routledge for a monograph titled Interpreting Islamic Art in Europe and the United States (forthcoming, 2023). Melissa has been an invited lecturer at the University of Leicester and University of Oslo, among many others. Having presented her research at conferences in the USA, UK, Germany, Singapore, and Russia, she has also been invited to speak at numerous art institutions. Her doctoral dissertation (University of Westminster, 2017) investigates the reinstallation and interpretation of Islamic art exhibitions in Europe and the United States. 

Painting from Qusayr Amra (west aisle)
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

This lecture has already occurred.

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.

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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