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We are pleased to present a lecture by Sussan Babaie, Andrew W. Mellon Reader in the Arts of Iran and Islam at The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. Babaie’s lecture will explore issues of modernity in Iranian art. The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion, Chaired by Professor Mary Roberts, Art History and Nineteenth-Century Studies, University of Sydney. Prior to the talk there will be a drinks reception from 5:15pm.


Relevance to notions of modernity and its corollary global contemporary in the arts of Iran, and indeed much of the Middle East, are articulated in art criticism and art historical thinking, as much as of cultural and social histories of the region, in a religiously protected secularized language. The cliché is this: Iran modern cannot be Islamic, hence its contemporary arts must by necessity transcend its histories, unless we can also masquerade all pre-modern history into a secular-religious binary. ‘Islamic’ arts, a necessary error worth contemplating, marginalizes and delays, the argument goes, the arts situated in the entire region of West Asia and the Middle East, into which Iran fits culturally and historically. This talk focuses on such ‘seculiarizing’ postures of modernity. It argues that Islam, especially in its historical practices in Iran implicates the cultural fabric of Iranian arts so profoundly to have to be dealt with. In that case, the modern in the arts of Iran is as closely tethered to the early modern fabric of history as the European modern and postmodern are to their early modernities.


Sussan Babaie is the Andrew W. Mellon Reader in the Arts of Iran and Islam at The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. She is the author of the award-winning Isfahan and Its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi‘ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran (2008), and the co-author and editor of several books including Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran (2004), Shirin Neshat (2013), Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis (2014), and Honar: The Afkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art (2017). Most recently, she has contributed an essay “‘DNA’ Damage-Violence against buildings’” to MIT online Aggregate, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East: From ‎Napoleon to ISIS. Babaie is working on a book project about visual and gustatory sense perception and the culinary cultures of early modern Iran.



Drinks reception
Lawn adjacent to the Law School Foyer

Thursday 10 August, 2017
Law School Foyer, Lvl 2,
New Law School Building, Eastern Avenue
The University of Sydney
Camperdown, NSW 2006

For enquiries, contact:


Free and open to all with online registrations required.
Register Here

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