Islamic heritage vs. orthodoxy

13 June, 2021

A new article has been published in the Journal of Material Culture. I wrote “Islamic heritage versus orthodoxy: Figural painting, musical instruments and wine bowls at the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures” with the intention of providing a way of looking for curators and museum exhibition makers who grapple with difficult questions about what to display and how to think about what constitutes the Islamic. This article uses Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (2016) as a framework, analyzing three object types key to Ahmed’s analysis – Islamic figural painting, musical instruments and wine bowls – from the vantage point of the collection of the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures. Ahmed’s work can help understand a tension that contemporary museums struggle with in response to nationalist pressures to integrate Muslim citizens in Western Europe: between a diverse Islamic heritage, on the one hand, and orthodox desires to materially purify the very idea of Islam, on the other.

Click here for the Open Access-link.

Pooyan Tamimi Arab

Wine bowl inscribed with verses of the poet Hafez, 19th century (disputed), Herat, Afghanistan. Reproduced courtesy of The Netherlands National Museum of World Cultures, TM-3964-8.