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What is 'Islamic' Art?
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Book description

Revealing what is 'Islamic' in Islamic art, Shaw explores the perception of arts, including painting, music, and geometry through the discursive sphere of historical Islam including the Qur'an, Hadith, Sufism, ancient philosophy, and poetry. Emphasis on the experience of reception over the context of production enables a new approach, not only to Islam and its arts, but also as a decolonizing model for global approaches to art history. Shaw combines a concise introduction to Islamic intellectual history with a critique of the modern, secular, and European premises of disciplinary art history. Her meticulous interpretations of intertextual themes span antique philosophies, core religious and theological texts, and prominent prose and poetry in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu that circulated across regions of Islamic hegemony from the eleventh century to the colonial and post-colonial contexts of the modern Middle East.


'This book is exactly what art history needs when it attempts to think about Islamic art. Instead of asking what properties make an image Islamic, this book asks, what is an image in Islam? When art history begins to understand its secularism, concepts like art, image, vision, matter, and history necessarily change. Shaw gives us a different perceptual culture, one that begins from Islamic discourses, and gradually becomes visible as art and history. It is the first book of its kind, and I hope there will be many more.'

James Elkins - School of the Art Institute, Chicago

'By questioning the primacy of the art object and placing the experience of perception at center stage, Shaw challenges a number of paradigms within the field of Art History. In this master stroke of scholarship, she pries open the affective and aesthetic landscapes of pre-modern Islamic cultures, untethered from any single-point perspective and re-enchanted by the soaring poesis of her prose.'

Christiane Gruber - University of Michigan

'A radical rethinking of modern art history and the secular terms of Islamic art history. Stepping out of the perspectival frame, this marvelous book unpacks not only a vibrant Islamic perceptual culture thriving on sensation and mimesis but also imagines the possibility of studying art from a de-colonial angle. An amazing tour de force revealing an alternate approach to art!'

Birgit Meyer - Universiteit Utrecht

'A question that may seem simple, but behind that door is the history of everything - the shape of thought, the logic of imagination, the cradle of taste. Creative, sophisticated, fluent and spirited, Shaw paints in the rich landscape that gives meaning to self and other.'

Victoria Rowe Holbrook - Istanbul Bilgi University

‘… intriguing, insightful … the book offers stimulating readings of religious and literary texts … in relation to the perception of images.’

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