Call for Applications: Janet Abu-Lughod Library Seminar with Khaled Malas

Open Call for Participation: Encountering Qusayr ’Amra. Building Expenditure? The Second Janet Abu-Lughod Seminar, led by Khaled Malas

June 24, 2017
Open Call for Participation: Encountering Qusayr ’Amra. Building Expenditure?
The Second Janet Abu-Lughod Seminar, led by Khaled Malas

Mondays and Wednesdays, July 19 – August 14, 2017  

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm at the Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture

Situated eighty kilometers east of Amman, Qusayr ’Amra (‘the little palace of ’Amra’) is an Umayyad site located in the today desolate plateau of Wadi al-Butm.  The heart of the settlement, amazingly well preserved, is a stone bathhouse perhaps best known for the extensive frescoes that cover almost every surface of its interiors.

In Spring 2012, an inscription deciphered in the southern wall of the audience hall identified the Emir al-Walid b. Yazid as the building’s patron. A grandson of Abd al-Malik b. Marwan, the patron of the Dome of the Rock, al-Walid is mostly vilified in the surviving historical record as a decadent poet-prince. Al-Walid seems to have consistently preferred life outside the city for his perceived debauchery, and multiple Umayyad qusur, the so-called ‘desert palaces’, are associated with his patronage.

Over the course of eight meetings, we will view our encounter with Qusayr ’Amra as a singular lens into the continuities and distinctions associated with contemporary understandings of the first centuries of Islamicate space-making and visual culture. We will closely examine the seemingly cacophonous painting cycle to further our understanding of art-making practices during that period. This seminar seeks to challenge the distinctions between the particularities of experiences present in Qusayr ’Amra and its possible meaning(s) within its broader cultural contexts as it is understood today.


The seminar is intended for those hoping to develop their understanding of the art and architecture of early Islam. Whilst no prior knowledge of the seminar material is expected, eligible applicants must show their capacity for benefiting from, and contributing to, our collective exploration.

We will meet for two hour sessions to be held twice a week on Monday and Wednesday afternoons at the Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture, beginning promptly at 7:00 pm. On a yet-to-be-agreed-upon Friday, we will also schedule a weekend trip to Qusayr Amra as a group.

The number of places is limited. To join our seminar, please send a curriculum vitae and a cover letter explaining your interest and motivation. Although all readings and discussions will be in English, please indicate your Arabic and English language proficiency. Applications must be directed electronically (preferably in a single PDF) to [email protected] by July 5, 2017. 

Khaled Malas

Khaled Malas is an architect from Damascus and a co-founder of the Sigil Collective. He is also a PhD candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He is a member of various associations including the Arab Image Foundation, the Historians of Islamic Art Association, and the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics.