[P6372] Islamic Art and the Politics of Museum Display

Created by Philip Geisler
Tuesday, 11/30/21 11:30 am


Since the early 2000s, many Islamic art museums and galleries around the world have reorganized their displays. During the same period, methodological interventions building on post-structuralist and post-colonial theory began to challenge long-standing formal and regional categories defining the field of Islamic art history. These new developments have impacted the display strategies of new museums and exhibitions of Islamic art. As a central interface between the academic study of the Middle East, its global representation, and the general public, the approaches these museums use to mediate between art, material culture, and Islamic/regional cultures play a central role in shaping discussions about the region. This includes its designation through religious and/or cultural, national, ethnic, and geographic parameters. At the same time, Islamic art displays are also embedded in heterogeneous local politics and social discourses. This particularly concerns how museum making is entangled with cultural diplomacy and the production of alterity, diversity, and collective identity that serve regional or national agendas and negotiate the recognition of local diasporas as well as minority and/or majority communities.

Based on museum case studies from Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Western Europe, and Canada, this panel of doctoral students examines the politics of museum display and art discourses from 2000 until today. Rather than interpreting Islamic art displays as passive and neutral representations of the past, this panel theorizes them as a contemporary cultural practice that stages spatialized and immersive, ideological narrations of culture. Through bridging the gap between the often-separated realms of art historical research, curatorial practice, and critical museology, this panel aims to examine the new ways, in which museums of Islamic art communicate broader ideas about the region in various global contexts. For this, the panel assesses curatorial practices and displays in both public and private museums including the Malek National Museum (Tehran), the National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Istanbul), the Louvre Museum (Paris), the Alhambra Museum (Granada), and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Grounded in these accounts, the panel illuminates the politics of these displays and narrations vis-à-vis their local environments and shifted forms of national and/or religious self-fashioning. Through fostering an interdisciplinary and critical discussion, this panel ultimately argues that Islam has become a decisive global marker that enables states across the world to pursue local needs and actualize constitutive socio-political paradigms through cultural institutions and art displays.


Historians of Islamic Art Association (HIAA)


Art/Art Hist; Art/Art Hist; Art/Art Hist



Fahmida Suleman

(Royal Ontario Museum)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Philip Geisler

(Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Constance Jame

(Heidelberg University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Leila Moslemi Mehni

(University of Toronto)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Beyza Uzun

(IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Abdelrahman Abdalla Kamel

(Queens University)
Abdelrahman Kamel is an Egyptian cultural analyst, art historian and researcher with an interest in Middle Eastern studies and Identity politics. His academic background includes studies in culture and politics at Georgetown University, a master of art...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;