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Alya Karame: The Qur’an from Ink on Paper to Dust and Ashes

April 10 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Join us for “The Qur’an from Ink on Paper to Dust and Ashes,” a talk by art historian Alya Karame on Monday, April 10th, 5:30pm in Olin 102, Bard College.

After capturing the city of Mosul in December 2014, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) burned the university library destroying hundreds of thousands of books and manuscripts. The collections included Qur’ans, one of which was from the ninth century.. Like other episodes of our times, this performance reflects a certain engagement with the Qur’an that revives historically rooted debates related to the materiality of scripture. The relation of the sacred text to its material form has always been shaped by the ways in which people have dealt with the text’s physical manifestations. Here specifically, it can be traced back to a theological framework that the talk will explore. If burning the Qur’an meant extracting sacrality out of the manuscript, the act certainly recalls the formation of a secular sphere in the museum context. A form of dematerialisation, the act also resonates with contemporary moments in which the sacredness of an object is transposed onto different realms and in which the meanings of artworks are negotiated, in and beyond Islamic communities.

This event is organized by CHRA in collaboration with Middle Eastern Studies, Art History and Visual Culture, and Medieval Studies.

Alya Karame specializes in Islamic art and material culture. She is currently a research associate at the Orient-Institut in Beirut and a fellow of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. Her book project (forthcoming 2024) on a forgotten corpus of medieval Qur’ans has been supported by numerous grants. Karame was a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at the American University of Beirut (2019–20) where she also taught. She received the Barakat Trust award while at the University of Oxford, and prior to that was at the Kunsthistorisches Institut research program in Florence Connecting Art Histories in the Museum and was based at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin. Karame holds a PhD in Islamic Art History from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in History of Art & Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.


April 10
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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Olin 102