HAREM IN HISTORY & IMAGINATION

a symposium sponsored by The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT (AKPIA@MIT)

Friday May 7
5:30-7:45

Saturday May 8
9:30-1:15 & 2:30-6:00

MIT Room 6-120
Map & directions

Event is free & open to the public

To AKPIA@MIT Conferences

 

This two-day symposium offers an opportunity to debate the harem as an institution, an actual space, and a literary and artistic trope, and through these themes to critically review the spaces of women in Islamic cultures, both real and imagined and both in the past and present. Papers will deal with specific examples of historical (or contemporary?) harems, with legal and politicized debates about harems, and with representations of the Harem in art, literature, and present-day media in the east and west, with all associated theoretical and political implications.

 

Program

Poster


 

SCHEDULE

Friday, May 7th

Introduction

5:30-5:40

Welcome
Dean Adèle Naudé Santos
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

5:40-5:45

Introductory Remarks
Nasser Rabbat
Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1st Session: Representing the Harem

5:45-6:15

"Scenes and Types"
Jananne Al-Ani
Artist, London
Bio/Abstract

6:15-6:45

"Whose Harem?
Harem Photographs from the Late Ottoman World"

Nancy Micklewright
Getty Grant Program, Los Angeles
Bio/Abstract

6:45-7:15

"The Harem and the Houseboat:
Writing against Respectability in 1920s Egypt"

Marilyn Booth
Department of Comparative & World Literature
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

7:15-7:45

Discussant
Caroline Jones
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Saturday, May 8th

2nd Session: Power Plays

9:30-10:00

"Panoptic Bodies:
Black Eunuchs in the Topkapi Palace"

Jateen Lad
Architect, London

10:00-10:30

"Transformative Thresholds and Gendered Harems
in the Ottoman Sultanate"

Leslie Peirce
Departments of History and Near Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley

10:30-11:00

"The Harem as Biographygraphy:
Domestic Architecture, Gender and Nostalgia in Modern Syria"

Heghnar Watenpaugh
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bio/Abstract

11:00-11:30

Discussant
Susan Slyomovics
Anthropology Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

11:30-12:00

Coffee Break

3rd Session: Houses and Harems

12:00-12:30

"Colonial Visions, Civilizing Missions, and the Algerian House"
Zeynep Celik
School of Architecture,
New Jersey Institute of Technology

12:30-1:00

"Capture and Catharsis:
A Woman's Space in Contemporary Pakistan"

Kishwar Rizvi
Department of Art History
Barnard College, Columbia University
Bio/Abstract

1:00-1:15

Discussant
Joan DelPlato
Department of Art History
Simon's Rock College of Bard, Great Barrington

Bio/Abstract

1:15-2:30

Lunch

4th Session: Strategies of Identity

2:30-3:00

“Sons and Mothers:
Lineage, Polemic and Filial Bonds among Fifteenth Century ‘Ulama’”

Shaun E. Marmon
Department of Religion
Princeton University
Bio/Abstract

3:00-3:30

"Education in the Harem:
A Means of Individuation of the Person?"

Randi Deguilhem
Institut de Recherche et d’Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman
Aix-en-Provence
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Bio/Abstract

3:30-3:45

Discussant
Everett Rowson
Department of Middle Eastern Studies
New York University

3:45-4:00

Coffe Break

5th Session: Harem and the Construction of Gender

4:00-4:30

"Harem as Gendered Space and
the Spatial Reproduction of Gender"

Irvin C. Schick
Researcher
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bio/Abstract

4:30-5:00

"The Pull of the Harem:
The Socializing Effects of Segregated Spatiality"

Reina Lewis
School of Cultural & Innovation Studies
University of East London
Bio/Abstract

5:00-5:15

Discussant
Erika Naginski
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

5:15-6:00

General Discussion and Closing Remarks
Moderator

Nasser Rabbat
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6:00-7:00

Refreshments

 

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"Scenes and Types"
Jananne Al-Ani
Artist, London

Biography
Jananne Al-Ani was born in Iraq in 1966. She lives and works in London. Al-Ani studied Fine Art at the Byam Shaw School of Art and graduated with an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art in 1997. Al-Ani has exhibited widely in Britain and abroad and has had solo shows at Dryphoto Art Contemporanea, Prato (2002) and the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles (2002). Recent group exhibitions include Beyond East and West: Seven Transnational Artists at the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign (2004); Love Affairs at IFA-Galerie, Stuttgart, touring to Bonn and Berlin; Alethia: the Real of Concealment at G?teborgs Konstmuseum; And the One doesn't stir without the Other, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; Disorientation curated by Jack Persekian for the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin and The New Schehrazades curated by Rose Issa at the Centre de Cultura Contempor^nia de Barcelona (all 2003). Al-Ani has co-curated a number of exhibitions including Veil at The New Art Gallery Walsall touring to Bluecoat Gallery & Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool; Modern Art Oxford and Kulturhuset Stockholm (2003/4) and Fair Play at Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London touring to Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham (2001/2). Recent commissions include Identinet, Film and Video UmbrellaÕs web based project at www.identinet.net (2002). Al-Ani was the recipient of the East International Award (2000) and her works can be found in public collections including the Arts Council of England and the Imperial War Museum, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Al-Ani is currently working, in collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella and the Norwich Art Gallery, towards a touring solo exhibition in 2004/5


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"Education in the Harem:
A Means of Individuation of the Person?"

Randi Deguilhem
Institut de Recherche et d’Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman
Aix-en-Provence

Abstract
For several years, I have been working on various means of individuation of the person with several of my case studies coming from the different educational environments in 19th century Syria. The present paper would focus on education in the harem which would lead to a form of individuation in the sense of artistic self-expression.
A number of publications exist on this subject such as: The Imperial Harem of the Sultans. Daily Life at the Ciragan Palace during the 19th Century. Memoirs of Leyla (Saz) Hanimefendi, Istanbul, 1995. I would use memoirs such as these as first-hand source material and, if time permits, look at some newspaper material from the end of the 19th century which comments upon education in the harem.
Publications have appeared on this question such as those by Fatima Mernissi, Marilyn Booth and Mary-Ann Fay.

Biography
Randi Deguilhem is a Permanent Senior Researcher (CR1 habilitée) with the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) at IREMAM (Institute for Research and Study on the Arab and Muslim World), Aix-en-Provence. She holds a PhD from NYU and a habilitation from the U. of Aix-Marseille. She has lived for a number of years in Damascus both in the 1980s (Fulbright-Hays recipient) and in the 1990s (researcher at IFEAD) and returns every year for her research. For the past five years, she has been directing a doctoral seminar in Middle East history at the MMSH in Aix-en-Pce. She is past president (2001-2003) of the Syrian Studies Association, former scientific coordinator (1997-2001) of the Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World ESF research program and Editor-in-Chief of The Islamic Mediterranean series, London, IB Tauris. She has published on a variety of topics, with a particular interest on the pious foundations in modern and contemporary Syria, the intellectual life and educational systems in late Ottoman Damascus and on the French Secular Mission in Mandate Syria. Among her most notable publications: Le waqf dans l'espace islamique. Outil de pouvoir socio-politique, ed. Randi Deguilhem, IFEAD, Damascus, 1995 in which she has written 2 chapters; "The wakf in the Ottoman Empire until 1914", Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2000, pp. 87-92; "Reflections on the Secularisation of Education in the 19th Century Ottoman Empire: The Syrian Provinces", The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilisation, Ankara, Yeni Turkiye, 2000, pp. 662-668; "Turning Syrians into Frenchmen: the cultural politics of a French non-governmental organization in French Mandate Syria (1920-67) - the French Secular Mission Schools", Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 13, n° 4, 2002, pp. 449-460.


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Discussant
Joan DelPlato
Department of Art History
Simon's Rock College of Bard, Great Barrington

Biography
Joan DelPlato is Professor of Art History at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Her book on representations of the harem in 19th-century French and British art and culture is titled MULTIPLE WIVES, MULTIPLE PLEASURES: REPRESENTING THE HAREM 1800-1875 (Fairleigh Dickinson Univesrity Press, 2002). The book won a Millard Meiss publication award from the College Art Association. Her other writing on the harem representation can be found in Amy Tucker's VISUAL LITERACY (McGraw-Hill, 2001) and in GENDERED LANDSCAPES, ed. Bonj Szczygiel, et al. (Penn State, 2000). She was chair and speaker at the panel, "Oriental Erotics," College Art Association annual meeting (2002) and moderator for the panel on 19th-Century French Orientalist Art, at the conference ORIENTALISM: AN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIR, held at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA (2000).


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"The Pull of the Harem:
The Socializing Effects of Segregated Spatiality"

Reina Lewis
School of Cultural & Innovation Studies
University of East London

Biography
Reina Lewis is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of East London. She is author of Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (Routledge, 1996) and Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem (IB Tauris, 2004). She is also co-editor, with Sara Mills, of Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader (Edinburgh University Press, 2003), and series editor, with Teresa Heffernan, of Cultures in Dialogue, a multi-volume project republishing Eastern and Western womenÕs writing from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries (Gorgias Press).


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“Sons and Mothers:
Lineage, Polemic and Filial Bonds among Fifteenth Century ‘Ulama’”

Shaun E. Marmon
Department of Religion
Princeton University

Abstract
The bitter enmity between the two prominent fifteenth century Egyptian 'a¯lims, Jala¯l al-Di¯n 'Abd al-Rahma¯n ibn Abi¯ Bakr al-Suyu¯ti¯ and Shams al-Di¯n 'Abd al- Rahma¯n ibn Muhammad al-Sakha¯wi¯, was part of a larger, multi-generational and multi-factional dispute among the 'ulama¯' of Mamluk Cairo. This dispute, like others, involved teachers, students, household members, "lay" followers and supporters from the military class. But what is often neglected in modern discussions of the vitriolic exchanges between al-Suyu¯ti¯ and al-Sakha¯wi¯ is the gendered element of the controversy. One of the arenas of debate was the status of women in Paradise. Would women or would they not be allowed to see the face of God? Al-Suyu¯ti¯ argued that they would not. Al-Sakha¯wi¯ argued that they would.
This long standing theological controversy quickly took on ad hominem or, one might say, ad maternam tone. The scholastic dispute over women, as an abstract category, and the Deity turned into a very personal dispute about real mothers and lineage. On the one hand, al-Sakha¯wi¯ denounced al-Suyu¯ti¯ for supposedly neglecting his own mother, a Turkish concubine. On the other hand, he drew on a very old, but clearly still powerful model of nasab, and criticized al-Suyu¯ti¯'s lineage as being non-existent on the maternal side. Al-Suyu¯ti¯, al-Sakha¯wi¯ pointed out, was, after all, the child of a concubine and thus had no maternal nasab. Al-Suyu¯ti¯ responded with the treatise, al-Dara¯ri¯ f i¯ awla¯d al-sara¯ri¯, an enumeration of the famous and worthy personages of the past who had been children of concubines.
A third figure, Nu¯r al-Di¯n 'Ali¯ ibn 'Abd Allah al-Hasani¯ al-Samhu¯di¯, one of the most brilliant scholars of the fifteenth century, proudly claimed sayyid descent from both his father and mother. A student of one of al-Suyu¯ti¯'s most implacable enemies and a close friend of al-Sakha¯wi¯, al-Samhu¯di¯ wrote a two volume treatise entitled, Jawa¯hir al-'iqdayn fi¯ fadl al-sharifayn, the "sharifayn" being al-'ilm, knowledge, and al-nasab al-nabawi¯, descent from the prophet. For al-Samhu¯di¯, who had a particularly intense and affectionate adult relationship with his own mother, there was no doubt that his sacred lineage was secured by his mother's status as well as his father's.
Women, especially mothers, were clearly what one might call multi-valent signifiers in the rhetoric of these fifteenth century scholars. But these women were also real people, participants as older women in mother/son relationships that were clearly important, for a range of reasons, in the lives of their adult sons. From what al-Suyu¯ti¯, al-Sakha¯wi¯ and al-Samhu¯di¯ wrote about their own and one another's mothers, as well as from the writings of their students and other contemporaries, we can put together a complex portrait of what one might call filial friendships. Contrary to the oft-repeated trope that patrilineality and the prevalence of concubinage made Mamluk society a "motherless society," we see that mothers, whether they were slave or free, were very present indeed, both in the lives of their grown sons and in various areas of public discourse.


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"Whose Harem?
Harem Photographs from the Late Ottoman World"

Nancy Micklewright
Getty Grant Program, Los Angeles

Abstract
This paper examines a series of photographs of the harem, taken by photographers whose relationship to their subject matter varied dramatically, and whose purposes in producing images of the harem were equally diverse. While some of these photographs will be well-known to the audience, most are unpublished and offer a new means of understanding how some Ottomans themselves responded to the widely reproduced tourist views of the harem in their own photographic constructions. The evidentiary value of the images, their interpretative significance and their role as consumer goods are problematized.

Biography
Nancy Micklewright joined the Getty Grant Program in 2001, after teaching the history of Islamic art and architecture, and the history of photography at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, for 12 years. She was one of the first scholars of Islamic art to incorporate gender as a category of analysis in her research, publishing on aspects of late Ottoman art (painting, dress and photography). Her book, A Victorian Traveler in the Middle East, The photography and travel writing of Annie Lady Brassey, came out in late 2003. The history of photography in the late Ottoman world is a continuing research interest. Her responsibilities at the Grant Program include individual research grants, museum conservation grants and the graduate internship program at the Getty Center.


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"Capture and Catharsis:
A Woman's Space in Contemporary Pakistan"

Kishwar Rizvi
Department of Art History
Barnard College, Columbia University

Abstract
The rituals of inhabitation in contemporary Pakistan are layered and multifaceted. In a society defined by Islamic political and religious values, women as well as men, are required to abide by certain social preconditions - imposed and imagined. This paper locates the discussion of women's spatial experiences in the context of two architectural types, the harem and the Sufi shrine. In Pakistan, these spaces represent two examples of the types of physical autonomy allowed women and also the negotiations embedded in the enactment of that autonomy. In contrast to the harem which is ultimately connected to the patriarch who owns it, the shrine is an institution in which women's participation is allowed, indeed expected. This paper explores the multiple ways in which female authority is manifested here: as an invisible presence (woman as patron; as proxy for the expression of men's devotion) and as a visible performer (woman as keeper of the shrine and its legend; as the female voice appropriated by both men and women participants in Sufirituals).

Biography
Kishwar Rizvi teaches the history of Islamic architecture at Barnard College, Columbia University. She has written on issues of gender, nationalism and religious identity in the contemporary art and architecture of Iran and Pakistan. Her primary research is on representations of religious and imperial authority in sixteenth-century architecture in Safavid Iran. Rose Issa at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (all 2003)


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"Harem as Gendered Space and
the Spatial Reproduction of Gender"

Irvin C. Schick
Researcher
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract
The word harem denotes both the womenfolk of a household and the dedicated spatial enclosure in which they live. This paper approaches the latter meaning of the word in the context of recent theoretical work on the social construction of space and its relation to gender. Like any social institution, the harem is in essence a representation; and like the history of any social institution, its history is largely that of its representation. But representations of the harem have been multiple and often contradictory, its portrayal ranging from a microcosm of oriental despotism and the locus of phallocratic oppression on the one hand, to a space of female autonomy in which Muslim women are able to engage in social, economic, and even political activities unhindered by male domination on the other. Rather than searching for the true essence of the harem in religious texts or historical practices, it may be more fruitful to conceptualize it primarily as a socially constructed space, often more imagined than physical, and to focus on how it has functioned to produce and reproduce gender. Feminist geographers have long stressed the mutually constitutive nature of space and gender, arguing that the differences in the ways men and women experience geography are not only a consequence of gender differences, but are also productive of them. Here, geography must be understood in the broadest sense, as encompassing spatial structures not only natural but also artificial, not only physical but also imagined.
The harem system has provided a spatial basis for gender difference in many Muslim societies. And since spatial differentiation often co-exists with power differentiation, it has been implicated in the production and perpetuation of power assymetries along gender lines. Segregation reproduces itself, as spaces of otherness become not only repositories of others, but producers of alterity as well. At the same time, this necessarily means that the harem is also a site of resistance; indeed, the ongoing political struggle over veiling and seclusion can be viewed as an aspect of spatial politics, a contest over the restructuring of space.

Biography
Irvin C. Schick has taught at Harvard University and MIT, where he is currently a researcher. He is the author of The Erotic Margin: Sexuality and Spatiality in Alteritist Discourse (1999) and The Fair Circassian: Adventures of an Orientalist Motif (2004, in Turkish). He has edited or co-edited several books of which the most recent, an annotated anthology of European women's narratives of Turkish captivity, will be published in the coming year. In addition to women in Islam and the representation of Muslim women, his research interests include questions of identity and modernity in Turkey, as well as the Islamic arts of the book, especially calligraphy.


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"The Harem as Biographygraphy:
Domestic Architecture, Gender and Nostalgia in Modern Syria"

Heghnar Watenpaugh
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract
In recent years, Syrian popular culture has witnessed a renewed interest in the visible past, and the commercialization and commodification of historic architecture in a variety of cultural productions. Under the rubric of what is being called "Al-'Awda ila al-Tarikh", ("The Return to History,"), immensely popular cultural forms such as television serials focusing on the recent past, filmed in historic settings, are eagerly consumed (S. Kawakibi, R. Blecher). Anthropologists and historians of contemporary Syria have noted the peculiar trajectories of certain visions of the past, such as "the old Damascene house," a typology of urban domestic architecture, from museum displays to reproduction and recontextualization as settings for restaurants, festivals, or nightclubs (C. Salamandra). In addition, there is a surge in novels set in historic periods and memoirs, widely read and commented upon. Prominently, these constructions depict traditional gender roles in the setting of the Old Courtyard House, in ways imbued with nostalgia. This paper initiates a critique of literary constructions of the "Old Courtyard House" and of its physical preservation through the prism of gender, by focusing on biographies and autobiographies of prominent women, and the spatial hierarchies that they stage. In particular, this paper uses 19th and 20th century biographies of Aleppo's first modern poetess, Marianna Marrash. Marrash was one of the first female figures to have a public persona in this city. Yet her biographies spatialize her less as a published poet in the public sphere and more as a hostess presiding over gatherings in the old courtyard house. Thus the description of the architecture of the home is made to stand in for her biography.

Biography
Heghnar Watenpaugh is an Assistant Professor of the History of Architecture and the Aga Khan Career Development Professor in the History, Theory and Criticism section of the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2004). In addition to early modern Islamic architectural history, her research addresses the preservation and commodification of architecture, and their relationship to modernity, colonialism, and nationalism in the modern Islamic world.