ARTES-CEEH PhD Scholarship Report 2021: Nausheen Hoosein

Thanks to the generosity of the ARTES-CEEH PhD Scholarship, I have made significant progress in the first year of my PhD at the University of York’s History of Art department. My thesis is titled “From Umayyad Madinat al-Zahra to Almohad Seville: The Reuse of Architectural Spolia in al-Andalus during the 12th century” and is supervised by Dr Richard McClary. My work explores the plunder and re-use of Umayyad spolia, particularly marble capitals, in later Almohad architecture through an integrated text- and material-based analysis to examine two significant Almohad sites, the Giralda and Alcázar, in Seville.

Nausheen Hoosein presenting at the “Works in Progress” Postgraduate Research Conference hosted by the Department of History of Art at the University of York (March 2022)

Since beginning the PhD, I have completed numerous tutorials required of research students, including Research Integrity, Research Data Management, and Information Security Awareness, as well as created a Professional Development Plan. These trainings have ensured that I am equipped with the necessary skills to conduct effective and ethical research in my field. I have also successfully completed the Arabic for Medievalists language course, offered through the Centre for Medieval Studies. This course, along with an advanced Spanish course I will take in the summer term, will help me in better accessing relevant primary texts that are significant for my research. I have also completed several formal supervisions with my supervisor, as well as with my Thesis Advisory Panel Member, Professor Tim Ayers. These discussions have been instrumental in shaping my research questions and strengthening my bibliography.

Column capital, 936-976 CE, Madinat al-Zahra. On display at the British Museum. On loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, A. 145-1920.

Throughout the past year, I worked towards compiling a literature review, as well as a digital database of the corpus of caliphal capitals that are dispersed in various international collections as well as in situ at various sites in Spain. Thus far, I have been able to study the examples in London, at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum. This short research trip was instrumental in studying the capitals closely and the material observation and visual analysis will serve as an integral component of the thesis. I am already looking forward to the second year of my PhD which will hopefully include field research in various archaeological sites, museums and archives in Cordoba, Seville and Madrid. Findings from these field visits will be recorded in a digital database. This database will serve as an integral component of the research process, allowing me to compile relevant information on each object and site.

Top: Capital, late 14th century, Granada, On display at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 341-1866.
Bottom: Capital, 960-980 CE, Madinat al-Zahra, On display at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, A.10-1922.

In addition, I have had the opportunity to present my research at the recent “Works in Progress” Postgraduate Research Conference hosted by the Department of History of Art at York. I am also looking forward to presenting my work and collaborating with colleagues at upcoming conferences in the spring and summer including the Association for Art History (virtual), International Medieval Congress in Leeds, and Society for the Medieval Mediterranean in Crete.

In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to ARTES and CEEH for their generous support, without which this progress would not have been possible.

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