I am a scholar of Islamic art interested in the book history and court cultures of Iran and Turkey. My research explores how manuscripts shape the communities that commission, make, and read them.
Currently, I am working on my first book project, Pictures as Mirrors at the Safavid Court and Beyond. During the first half of the sixteenth century, Iranian monarchs commissioned some of the most richly illustrated manuscripts of Islamic art history in response to intense political and religious turmoil. Against the prevailing tendency to read these illustrations as expressions of a royal patron’s tastes and whims, this project asks, what did these paintings do for the larger society of courtiers, artists, and viewers at a time of change? Taking as a case study Nizami’s Khamsa (ca. 1540s), a medieval Persian romance, my project starts at the Safavid court, and follows this landmark manuscript through its eventual removal to England. Along the way, I explore how the manuscript fashioned a voice for itself to become an agent of change, and how that voice was eventually dampened. Pictures as Mirrors reveals the conditions and limits of a book’s power to transform its viewers in courts, libraries, and imperial museums.
I am a Junior Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. My research has been supported by the MacMillan Center at Yale University, and the Powers Grant at Oberlin College. I have curated Islamic art exhibitions at the Yale University Art Gallery, and currently work on a rotation at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin.
“Painted Inscriptions; or, How the Khamsa of Shah Ṭahmāsb talks about itself,”
Inscriptions of the Medieval Islamic World, edited by Bernard O'Kane, A.C.S. Peacock, and Mark Muehlhaeusler (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press) (forthcoming in 2023).
“Ottoman Alphabet Books and Calligraphic Modernity” (under review).
Symposium review: “Writing/Curating the Middle East, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States, March 30–31, 2017,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture 7, no. 2 (2018): 397-399.
“Letter to a Young Girl from Antalya,” from the Turkish (“Antalyalı Genç Kıza Mektup”) by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, translation and introduction with Shaj Mathew (forthcoming in March 2023 in PMLA).
“A Nineteenth-century Alphabet Book from Ottoman Istanbul,” Visual Resources of the Middle East Project [video], 2020. https://youtu.be/TmVlj7ftinI
“Appropriating Language, Appropriating the Great Church,” Aesthetics for Birds [contribution to a roundtable on Hagia Sophia’s conversion]. https://aestheticsforbirds.com/2022/01/13/hagia-sophia-and-cultural-heritage/