I'm a specialist in Islamic art and history during the caliphal period (c.650-1250) and an advocate for the power of Islamic visual culture to reveal a more diverse and interconnected global history. My aim is to make Islamic art and history accessible to all through Education, Games, and GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sectors.
My current research focuses on diversifying gaming and digital cultural heritage, and I have a longstanding interest in digital art history. I founded and lead the Digital Lab for Islamic Visual Culture & Collections to explore new technologies to create immersive experiences of medieval Islamic spaces and objects.
Most of my work as a historian has focused on Cordoba, the capital of early Islamic Iberia, in its broader medieval Islamic contexts, especially in conversation with the contemporary Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties, as well as the Syrian Umayyads. My first book analysed the elite villas and court culture of Cordoba and early Islamic Spain. A special focus has been on medieval global connections between medieval Islamic and non-Islamic societies.
I've also written about powerful court women as 'makers' of medieval Islamic art, and about medieval Islamic science and visual culture. My second book (contracted for publication with Oxford University Press) explores early Islamic science and visual culture through the career of a 9th c. Cordoban intellectual, 'Abbas Ibn Firnas, who is remembered today for an experiment in early human flight.
Before arriving in Edinburgh in 2018 I was Associate Professor of Art History with tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I taught Islamic art history since 2006. Before that I held visiting lectureships at Boston Architectural College, Dartmouth College, and Brandeis University.
I earned my PhD at MIT in 2005 in the History, Theory & Criticism of Architecture and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. Before transitioning into the field of Islamic architecture and art history, I was interested in preserving America's historic buildings and urban fabric. I completed my MA in Architectural History and Historic Preservation at the University of Virginia in 1998. A highlight of my time at Virginia was a summer internship at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, working with the Director of Restoration to do hands-on architectural conservation and restoration.
My courses explore Islamic architecture and visual culture during the caliphal age (roughly 650-1250 CE), the Islamic West in a global context, digital Islamic art history, and science and Islamic visual culture.
As well as teaching on programmes at Edinburgh College of Art, I teach on the MSc in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.
My research focuses on the early Islamic lands during the age of the caliphs (c. 650-1250 CE), with a special focus on Cordoba and the early Islamic West, and on global connections between Islamic and non-Islamic societies.
Current research projects:
diversity and inclusion in video games and digital cultural heritage
mixed reality technologies to create immersive experiences of spaces and objects
medieval global encounters, focusing on Islamic - Viking connections. I am co-investigator on the international project A Viking in the Sun: Harald Hardrada and the Mediterranean on the Eve of the Crusades (PI: Dr. Gianluca Raccagni, School of History, Classics & Archaeology)
Islamic visual culture of the pre-colonial Philippines