[R6419] Promoting Public Scholarship in Middle East History II: #StudentsOfIslamicArt - Wikipedia and Open Pedagogy in the Middle East Studies Classroom

Created by Stephennie Mulder
Wednesday, 12/01/21 11:30 am


In the fall of 2018, a group of Islamic art historians embarked on a project to transform classroom pedagogy and public scholarship on Islamic art on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is often derided for poorly-researched content and uneven quality, but studies show Wikipedia is now, in the aggregate, more accurate than Encylopaedia Brittanica. Wikipedia is the world’s most frequently-consulted source of information, and its ubiquity is molding how people understand the past. As academics, we can ignore this reality or we can choose to engage and shape it.

Wikipedia has serious problems of representation. Over 90 percent of Wikipedia’s editors are men from Euro-American backgrounds, and 84 percent of entries are about Europe or North America. Thus, the encyclopedia remains Eurocentric, and its coverage of the Middle East is spotty and uneven. Yet historians seem unaware of the tremendous potential to shape public views of the past by a serious commitment to editing Wikipedia. #StudentsOfIslamicArt brings that commitment into the classroom as a formal, structured research and writing assignment culminating in an end-of-semester international edit-a-thon.

Pedagogically, editing Wikipedia has many benefits. Students develop the research, writing, and critical thinking skills of a traditional research paper, with the added benefit of practicing digital literacy and civic engagement. Students speak of a sense of pride and accountability for their work: instead of a paper that will be read by one professor and forgotten, their research and writing will be published online as one small contribution to improving the world’s knowledge. The assignment also makes university library holdings accessible, bringing the content typically available only to students and faculty into the public sphere.

#StudentsOfIslamicArt was organized in 2018 as an ongoing collaboration between faculty at four universities and the Shangri-La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design. The project has now enriched 84 articles, updating research and correcting sourcing and citation, improving writing and editing, and adding open-source images. The impact is palpable: in the 2020 one class alone added 27.5K words and 328 references. Just one month later, those articles had received 145K page views.

This roundtable assembles #StudentsOfIslamicArt faculty and museum curators to share their practical strategies for implementing projects aimed at teaching valuable research and critical thinking skills while simultaneously improving public knowledge of Middle East History.

This proposal is the second in an ongoing series of workshops on Promoting Public Scholarship in Middle East History initiated at MESA in 2020.


Educ; Educ



Stephennie Mulder

(The University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;

Alex Dika Seggerman

(Rutgers University-Newark)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Emily Neumeier

(Temple University)
I am Assistant Professor of Art History at Temple University, focusing on the art and architecture of the Islamic world.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Leslee Michelsen

(Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Glaire Anderson

(University of Edinburgh)
I am a specialist in medieval Islamic visual culture and Senior Lecturer in Islamic Art at the University of Edinburgh. Before arriving in Edinburgh in 2018 I was Associate Professor of Art History with tenure at the University of North Carolina – Chapel...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sam Bowker

(Charles Sturt University)
Dr Sam Bowker is the Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture for Charles Sturt University, based on Wiradjuri land in Wagga Wagga, Australia. His research is centered on Islamic art from Australian perspectives, notably the history of the textile...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;