November 5 Event: Lecture on Materiality and Islamic Art by Professor Christiane Gruber

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Time: 4-6 pm
Place: University College (UC140)

Title: “Violence and its Material Vestiges: The Martyrs’ Museum in Tehran”

Abstract: The Central Martyrs’ Museum in Tehran is the largest cultural repository in Iran containing personal artifacts and arts belonging to individuals who perished during the Islamic Revolution (1979) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Although scholarship frequently considers the museum a secular invention of the Enlightenment, this presentation argues that it also can provide a ceremonial setting that prompts ritual activity. The Martyrs’ Museum, as a case in point, reveals how a cultural institution can provide a dramatic field in which visitors engage in the communal acts of remembrance and mourning, thereby uniting them into a civic body. Based on an analysis of this museum, its layout and display objects, and interviews with its staff and visitors, this presentation explores the institutionalization and aesthetizication of trauma and violence in a post-revolutionary Islamo-Iranian context with the aim to expand and challenge prevailing theoretical approaches to the concept of the “museum.”

Bio: Christiane Gruber is Associate Professor of Islamic Art in the Department of Art History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her primary field of research is Islamic book arts, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic ascension texts and images, about which she has written two books and edited a volume of articles. She also pursues research in Islamic book arts and codicology, having authored the online catalogue of Islamic calligraphies in the Library of Congress as well as edited the volume of articles, The Islamic Manuscript Tradition. Her third field of specialization is modern Islamic visual and material culture, about which she has written several articles. She also has co-edited two volumes on Islamic and cross-cultural visual and material cultures, including Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East.

Her research has been supported by a number of grants, including the Guggenheim Foundation, Max-Planck Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, the American Research Center in Egypt, and Fulbright-Hays. Over the past dozen years, Prof. Gruber has taught art history at the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Humboldt University, and Sorbonne University. From 2008 to 2010, she served as a board member of the Historians of Islamic Art Association as well as editor of the scholarly listserv H-ISLAMART.