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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1307: Women, Power, and Patronage in the Late Medieval Mediterranean World

Wednesday 5 July 2023, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Doaa Omran, Department of English Language & Literature, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Paper 1307-aDonation Opportunities for Women and Girls in Churches of the Late Byzantine and Early Post-Byzantine Period in the Wider Region of Macedonia
(Language: English)
Katerina Kiltzanidou, Department of History & Ethnology, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini
Index terms: Art History - Painting, Byzantine Studies, Gender Studies, Women's Studies
Paper 1307-bThe Beseeched Burial: Entanglements in the Historical Events Associated with the Shrine of al-Sayyida Nafīsa, Cairo
(Language: English)
Murtaza Shakir, Department of History, Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, Mumbai
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Liturgy, Religious Life
Paper 1307-cImplementing Imperial Matronage in Mughal Architecture: Gendered Negotiations of Frameworks and Networks Governing Construction
(Language: English)
Parshati Dutta, Department of History of Art, University of York
Index terms: Architecture - General, Gender Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Women's Studies

Paper -a:
The study of female donations in the churches of the late Byzantine period could be used to reveal how the women and their families perceived their position in the family, social, and political life of their time, their possibilities, abilities, mentality, desires, and fears. At the same time, the study contributes to gender studies and the history of an area. The aim of this announcement is the presentation of female donors' portraits that were made in the wider region of Macedonia in a period of constant wars between the Byzantines, Latins, Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, and Ottoman Turks (1204-1571). Therefore, the study and grouping of the portraits will follow the state administration of the area in which they were made, because the politics of each medieval power differed in terms of dealing with the citizens with varying effects in all its aspects of life, and therefore also in art. In the analysis of the female depictions we will focus on the relationship and the roles of each woman with the depicted persons and the way in which they are projected. The search for female social roles can also be used as a means of discovering the capabilities of women to make a donation to ecclesiastical institutions.

Paper -b:
The historic shrines of Ahl al-Bayt in Egypt stand as a vital representation of the time-honoured bond between Muslim spirituality and funerary architecture in Egypt. The burial place of al-Sayyida Nafīsa is one of the prominent constituents of those shrines. The magnetism of her shrine stimulates inquiry into not only the traditions surrounding her ascetic personality but also into the history of her burial and the socio-administrative entanglements in the trajectory of events that ensued in regard to her shrine. Drawing from various details recorded in a number of primary and secondary historical sources, this paper firstly attempts to reconstruct a coherent account of the events of her demise and burial, the events that took place over time near her shrine, the renovations of her shrine that were undertaken during various regimes, the inscriptions on her shrine and the details of notable visitors to her shrine. Secondly, through studying these specific aspects of the history of al-Mash'had al-Nafīsī , this paper will try to contextualize its significance in evoking the love of the Prophet Muḥammad's family - love that distinguishably transcends sectarian narratives.

Paper -c:
The premise of this research is that given the extent of gendering and colonisation that traditional textual sources about pre-modern Islamic women have undergone, architecture matronised by them need to be considered now as alternative primary material enabling the re-writing of their histories. While biographical attributes of architecture are widely accepted, for architecture matronised by medieval Muslim women, their degree of self-expression and ability to control its materialisation in built structures has been routinely questioned. As mainstream histories remain coloured by ideas homogenising all of these matrons as individuals cloistered within the zenana, robbed of mobility, devoid of agency, and restricted by narrow circles of communication, their engagement with architectural projects too has been argued as limited to financial sponsorship only. This paper submits a counter argument to this narrative by analysing the complete spectrum of Mughal architectural processes from ideation to execution, by deconstructing it using literary, epigraphic, artistic, and architectural sources into the stages and sub-stages of 1. Finance (acquisition of capital, its investment, inheritance) and 2. Project management (conception, design, procurement of land and labour, site supervision). Using the architectural careers of three empresses - Maryam Zamani, Nur Jahan, and Jahanara - as case studies, their specific gendered experiences are considered at each stage, and creative solutions deployed to circumvent any limitations therein are discussed. Ultimately, findings indicate that Mughal imperial women enjoyed a far greater physical, visual, and intellectual proximity with their architectural projects than is assumed. The study also supports the conclusion that as controlling human resources was more challenging for Mughal women than accumulating financial resources, it was their negotiation of and with the networks of officials forming the chain of command from citadel to construction site that finally determined the success and numerosity of their architectural projects, and in turn, as embodiments of their persons erected across the empire, cemented their political power.