ARTES-CEEH Scholarship Report, 2022: Nausheen Hoosein

With the generosity of the ARTES-CEEH PhD Scholarship, I have made significant progress on my research, writing, as well as additional skills training. I am a second-year PhD student in the History of Art department at the University of York working under the supervision of Dr Richard McClary. My thesis is titled ‘From Umayyad Madinat al-Zahra to Almohad Seville: The Reuse of Architectural Spolia in al-Andalus during the 12th century.’ My work considers the re-use of Umayyad spolia, particularly marble capitals of the Madinat al-Zahra-type, in later imperial Almohad architecture in Seville, primarily the Giralda and Alcázar.

A tour of the Madinat al-Zahra archaeological complex with the Ernst Herzfeld Society for Studies in Islamic Art and Archaeology. (July 2022)

Since my last scholarship report, I have continued working towards compiling an annotated literature review, a digital database of the corpus of caliphal capitals, and significant portions of my thesis which have been submitted as conference papers. Thus far, I have been able to study the capitals in London (Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum), Paris (Louvre), Cordoba (Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba and the Madinat al-Zahra Museum), and in Malaga. This year, I plan to continue my field work in Madrid (Museo Arqueológico Nacional), Barcelona (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya), and at the Almohad sites in Seville (Giralda and Alcázar, as well as the regional museums). The current chapter I am working on establishes the significance of Madinat al-Zahra, both as the imperial centre in the caliphal period and in its ruined afterlife, as a repository of architectural fragments. In this chapter, I trace the development of the Madinat al-Zahra-type capital, highlighting its iconography, inscriptions, and uses. The importance of history, first in the caliphal period but especially for the Almohads who later used Córdoba as a visual and material compass in claiming political legitimacy, will be at the forefront of this project. The attitudes towards the past, feelings of nostalgia, and memory will be significant in my research.

1.      Composite Capital, White Marble carved with trepan, 953-957 CE, Salon de Abd al-Rahman III, On display at the Madinat al-Zahra Museum.
Epigraphy: “[In the name of Allah, blessings of Allah for the servant of Allah Abd al-Rahman Prince of the Believers] May Allah lengthen his stay! For which was ordered and completed with the help of Allah and his excellent assistance under the direction of Sunayf, his factotum and freedman [in the year 345]. Work by Muzaffar, his servant.”

This past year, I had the opportunity to present my work at the Association for Art History’s annual conference and the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean’s biennial conference, “Interruptions & Disruptions in the Medieval Mediterranean,” in Crete.  This year I hope to present my work at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds and the postgraduate students meeting of the Ernst Herzfeld Society For Studies in Islamic Art and Archaeology. Finally, I plan to present one of my chapters at the “Islamic Art Research in Progress Seminar” which has recently launched at the University of York.

When not in the field or in the library, I spend the rest of my time on professional and skills development. I am continuing with language training in Arabic and Spanish, which will help me in accessing relevant primary texts that are significant for my research. I am also working towards the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA) through my work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant on the course, ‘Transmissions and Connections’. Successful completion of YLTA will award me with Associate Fellow of the HEA (AFHEA). Finally, I have been selected to serve as a Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE) Scholars Board Member.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to ARTES and CEEH for their continuing generous support, which has provided me with the means to continue my PhD work in all its research, writing, and training aspects.

1.      Nausheen Hoosein studying the capitals in the Louvre, Paris. (June 2022)

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