You are here

Object Narratives explicate religious images, objects, monuments, buildings, or spaces in 1500 words or less.

Volume 6: Issue 2 Material Islam

A special issue guest edited by Kambiz GhaneaBassiri and Anna Bigelow. 

  • Kambiz GhaneaBassiri
    The marketing of “wudhu socks" provides an interesting window onto how the forces of consumer capitalism in twenty-first-century America are brought to bear on a centuries-old hermeneutical, legal, and theological tradition in Islam that has long conceptualized purity through embodiment and objects.
  • Karen Ruffle
    The Bībī kā ʿalam, as it is popularly known, occupies a special, sacred class of ʿalams for the Hyderabadi Shiʿa. Containing Fatimah’s funerary plank, is a reliquary ʿalam and, while Hyderabad is distinctive for the extraordinary number of relics it possesses that are associated with the Imams and Ahl-e Bait, very few connect to Shiʿi women saints.
  • Jonathan E. Brockopp
    A parchment bifolio from the Kairouan collection presents a mystery. But like pottery in an archeological dig, this fragment is in situ, and clues to the identity of the author, the text, and the community of scholars that wrote and preserved it, are found in the rich context of this unique collection. Together, these manuscripts bear witness to a fascinating history of literary and cultural production, not only in North Africa, but in the broader Islamic world of the ninth and tenth century.
  • Kylie Gilchrist
    Rasheed Araeen’s Bismullah is noteworthy as the first work by the Karachi-born, London-based artist to enter the collection of Britain’s Tate Gallery in 1995. Bismullah deploys strategies of juxtaposition, disjunction, and doubling to combine visual imagery that references religion, empire, art history, and the artist’s personal biography. Through its montage tactics Bismullah not only maps the binaries of self and other that structure colonial discourse within and beyond the artistic field, but also recontextualizes these signifiers.
  • Rose Aslan
    Hüdayi Yolu represents a modern artist’s loving depiction of his hometown and neighborhood, an homage to a local Sufi saint, the romanticized communal memory of Istanbul as an Ottoman metropolis, and Barutçugil’s approach to “Sufi” art.
  • Max Johnson Dugan
    Crowned by the word “Allah,” a dense piece of Arabic calligraphy carved out of stainless steel wraps around an embellished center. The text is the ayat al-kursī, or “The Throne Verse,” a portion of the Qur’an (2:256) often recited before sleep or travel because of its reputation for spiritual and physical protection. While the Illinois-based company Modern Wall Art produces the above “Ayat Al Kursi Round,” at least six other businesses manufacture their own ayat al-kursī pieces in the same circular visual style. These pieces of Islamic decor appeal to different tastes in spite of the repetitiveness of their visual content. By attending to the specific production method and branding of “Ayat Al Kursi Round,” we can identify how the materialization of God’s words in wall art entangles Islamic ethics and the aesthetics of class formation.
Volume 6: Issue 1
  • Jonathan Homrighausen
    Donald Jackson’s The Black Cross illustrates some of the ways contemporary calligraphic art engages sacred writ: through the interplay of word and image, recording the artist’s physical gestures, and making visible the divine.
Volume 5: Issue 1
Volume 4: Issue 1
  • Alessandra Amin
    Since its construction around the turn of the twentieth century, Our Lady of Diman has served as the summer residence of the Maronite Catholic Patriarch. The prestige of the building is everywhere apparent: in the inlaid marble floor, in the gold and blue panes of the stained-glass windows. The church’s most remarkable feature, however, is the ceiling over its nave, with frescoes completed in the late 1930s by celebrated Lebanese painter Saliba Douaihy (1913-1994).
  • Jonathan Boyarin
    This Ets Chayim, a Tree of Life, is obsolete, redundant, out of time and out of place. It is detached both from the Torah scroll for which it was made, and from its mate that once served that scroll’s other end. It is not supposed to be here anymore—here, that is, in a transformed, glass-sheathed, twenty-first-century Lower East Side, where the traces of immigrant life have been erased, sanitized, and gathered into museums, or commodified as “atmosphere” for an urban playground. Perhaps the act of marking it—noting its persistence beyond obsolescence, shorn of the text to which it was once an auxiliary, bereft of the hands that once grasped it and the congregation that once stood as it was lifted up—is a minor act of resistance in itself.
  • Didier Aubert
    In Judío, photographer Fernando Brito attempts to find an ad-hoc visual representation for the Yoremem or Mayo Indians in his native state of Sinaloa, Mexico. This portrait pays tribute to the foundational value of the community’s ritual, which combines indigenous cosmology with seventeenth-century Jesuit influence, as crucial to its survival and cohesion.
  • Alanna E. Cooper
    Pagiel Leviyev’s house is very sick. Built in Samarkand over a century ago, the structure was designed as a mansion for a wealthy mercantile family. Today, it stands as a crumbling reminder of the Jewish community’s long and complex history in this unexpected spot of the world.
Volume 2: Issue 1
Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion

MAVCOR began publishing Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion in 2014. In 2017 we selected a new name, MAVCOR Journal. Articles published prior to 2017 are considered part of Conversations and are listed as such under Volumes in the MAVCOR Journal menu.

Pages