Department of Religious Studies

Late Antiquity Workshop: "Beyond Representation? Revisiting Islam's 'Image Problem'"

Thu, November 17, 2011 | ART 1.120

5:00 PM

A talk by Finbarr Barry Flood (New York University)

Most text books on Islamic art feel compelled to address the ‘problem’ of the image in passing, engaging the assumption that an uncompromising Bilderverbot shaped the development of the arts in the Islamic world both negatively (constraining the use of figural imagery) and positively (promoting the development of calligraphy, geometry, and vegetal ornament). Apart from questions of dating, however, there has been little sustained analysis of the core proscriptive texts, their relationship to antecedent traditions, and implications for the status of the image in theological Islam. Analysis of both texts and artifacts suggests that the nature of the concerns with images in theological Islam has been misunderstood in modern scholarship. Emphasizing their significance for the history of image theory, this lecture suggests that the relevant proscriptions highlight the limits of mimetic or representational concepts of the image, their historical contingency, and their inability to offer a universally valid account of the image’s ontological status.

Sponsored by: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Department of Art & Art History

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