Student Spotlight | Professor Pruitt to Give Lecture At UChicago

Professor Jennifer Pruitt will be giving a lecture as part of the Smart Lecture Series at the University of Chicago on February 29th, 2024. The talk will explore a portion of her new book-in-progress, Inheriting an Invented Tradition: Islamic Art in the Arabian Peninsula.Learn more here.This talk examines the narrative of Islamic art that is presented in flagship museum collections in the Arabian Gulf, with a focus on the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. The narrative of Islamic art as a cohesive discipline is one that was crafted in the West, based on the Orientalist premise that Islamic cultural production is monolithic, in direct contrast to the diverse complexity of artistic traditions in the West. In this narrative, the Gulf plays little role. Not being a center of a major empire in the pre-modern period, the region does not possess the early architectural or artistic monuments that art historians favor. However, in the twentieth and twenty first century, the center of gravity for collecting and displaying Islamic art, as well as modern and contemporary art of the Middle East, has shifted to the Gulf, which proclaims itself as the inheritor of these traditions, even though none of the canonical works of art were produced there. This paper explores what happens when the problematic stories we tell as art historians become adopted by a country for its own national identity. It argues that in the ongoing quest to find a balance between local and global identities to serve the multi-national populations of the Arabian Gulf, a reliance on Islamic artistic forms shifts the center of gravity in a global historical narrative away from the West toward the Islamic world, thereby fundamentally altering the discourse of Orientalism while relying on its foundational narratives.