1st International Symposium “Mediterranean Continuities: Material and spiritual paths”

MOHA Research Center organized the 1st International Symposium entitled “Mediterranean Continuities: Material and spiritual paths”, that took place at the Meeting Room of Imaret. 

This symposium was predicated on the premise of shared cultural continuities around the Mediterranean between Islamdom, Christendom (Western Europe) and Byzantium. It argued that these three politico-cultural zones have shared, appropriated and developed the late Antiquity heritage that they inherited, each within its own religious and cultural framework. Starting from this broad historical spectrum, the symposium posited the emergence of Islam in the seventh century not as a disruption of the classical culture in its late manifestations, but rather as a purposeful continuation of that culture. Within this event, MOHA hoped to gather scholars working on the theme of continuity between late Antiquity and the rise of Islam in a variety of fields that can fall under the two headings of material and epistemological domains. The ultimate aim was to reinforce the thesis of shared continuities around the Mediterranean and to further challenge the traditional intellectual and pedagogical approaches that have long emphasized cultural separation and insularity between Islamdom and Christendom.

Two keynote speakers addressed the two domains of investigation and explored the analytical and methodological contours of the general theme of the symposium. Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan professor at MIT, explored instances of continuity and adaptation from the late antique to the early Islamic (or Umayyad) Architecture, with a special emphasis on Syria. Prof. Garth Fowden, Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at University of Cambridge discussed the transition from the late antique to early Islamic thought worlds, represented respectively by Alexandria and Baghdad.

Date15 - 16 April 2016
VenueMeeting Room, Imaret

Keynote Speakers

The Symposium is structured upon two sessions relating to material and epistemological domains. Two eminent academics will open each session.

Session A:
Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan professor at MIT
Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. An architect and a historian, his scholarly interests include the history and historiography of Islamic architecture, art, and cultures, urban history and post-colonial criticism. Professor Rabbat has published more than 100 scholarly articles. His most recent books are: Mamluk History Through Architecture: Building, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (London, 2010), which won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies, 2011, al-Mudun al-Mayyita: Durus min Madhih wa-Ru’an li-Mustaqbaliha (The Dead Cities: Lessons from its History and Views on its Future) (Damascus, 2010), and an edited book, The Courtyard House between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (London, 2010). A forthcoming book, al-Naqd Iltizaman (Criticism as Commitment) will be published this year in Beirut. Rabbat worked as an architect in Los Angeles and Damascus and had visiting professorships in Paris and Munich. He contributes to a number of Arabic newspapers and serves on the boards of various cultural and educational organizations. He also consults with international design firms on projects in the Islamic World and maintains several websites focused on Islamic architecture and urbanism.

Session B:
Garth Fowden, Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at University of Cambridge
Garth Fowden read Modern History at Merton College, Oxford, and there also wrote his doctoral thesis, under the supervision of Henry Chadwick, on Pagan philosophers in late antique society, with special reference to Iamblichus and his followers (1979). Between 1978 and 1983 he held research fellowships at Peterhouse and at Darwin College, Cambridge. From 1983 to 1985 he taught Byzantine and Modern Greek History at Groningen University in the Netherlands, whence he moved to a position at the National Research Foundation, Athens, and then to the Sultan Qaboos Chair in 2013. He has held visiting appointments at Princeton University; the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan; the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; and most recently (2012-13) the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Invited Speakers

MOHA has invited the following scholars and academics to discuss the topic of continuity between late Antiquity and the rise of Islam, in a variety of fields.

Aziz al-Azmeh, Professor, Central European University
Mattia Guidetti, PhD, Universitätassistent, Universität Wien
Elizabeth Key Fowden, Senior Research Scholar, University of Cambridge
Nancy Khalek, Associate Professor, Brown University
Michalis Lychounas, Archaeologist, Hellenic republic Ministry of Culture and Sports
Mina Moraitou, Director, Benaki Museum of Islamic Art
Anastasios Tantsis, Lecturer, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Philip Wood, Associate Professor, Aga Khan University
Despoina Zavraka, Lecturer, EMATECH, Adjunct Ass. Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Grigorios Ziakas, Emeritus Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Symposium Program

Symposium opening      Thursday 14th April 2016
20.00 Welcoming reception
Symposium day 1 Friday 15th April 2016
10.00 – 10.30 Welcome / Registration / Coffee
10.30 – 11.00 Introductory remarks
11.00 – 13.30 Symposium session A – Chaired by Yasser Tabbaa
  11.00 –  Keynote lecture by: Nasser Rabbat (45’)
  Discussion (15’)
12.00 Coffee break (30’)
  12.30 – Presentation 1 (30’) – Mina Moraitou Interacting with ornament: Islamic design in a Christian context
  13.00 – Presentation 2 (30’) – Michalis Lychounas Beyond exchanges: is there a common artistic language in the making in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East?
13.30 – 15.30 Lunch break
  15.30 – Presentation 3 (30’) – Mattia Guidetti The role of late antique churches in the eastern Mediterranean area during early medieval period
  16.00 – Presentation 4 (30’) – Anastasios Tantsis Observations on a church in Crete: could it be an Islamic Mausoleum remodeled
16.30 Coffee break (30’)
  17.00 – Presentation 5 (30’) – Despoina Zavraka Landscapes of mortality: Multicultural matters of death
17.00 – 17.30 Session A: Chair remarks
20.00 Symposium dinner
Symposium day 2  Saturday 16th April 2016
10.00 – 13.00 Symposium session B – Chaired by Fani – Maria Tsigakou
  10.00 – Keynote lecture by: Garth Fowden (45’)
  Discussion (15’)
11.00 Coffee break (30’)
  11.30 – Presentation 1 (30’) – Aziz al-Azmeh Before and After Muhammad
  12.00 – Presentation 2 (30’) – Grigorios Ziakas Τhe Circle of Light: The Transmission of Greek Letters and Aristotelian Thought into the Arabic Tradition and the Making of the European Renaissance
12.30 Coffee break (30’)
  13.00 – Presentation 3 (30’) – Nancy Khaleg The Afterlife of Late Antique and Early Islamic Debates on Free will and Predestination
  13.30 – Presentation 4 (30’) – Philip Wood The Christian imagination of Muhammad in the tenth century: the case of the Chronicle of Seert
14.00 – 16.00 Lunch break
  16.00 – Presentation 5 (30’) – Elisabeth Key Fowden The Parthenon Mosque, King Solomon and the Greek philosophers
16.30 – 17.00 Session B: Chair remarks
17.00 – 17.30 Round table discussion & Closing remarks led by Yasser Tabbaa
20.00 Closing event
  Greek Monuments listed by UNESCO
  Photographic exhibition at Mohamed Ali Museum
  Curated by Fani-Maria Tsigkakou
Symposium day 3 Sunday 17th April 2016
11.00 – 13.00 Site visit Organized by Theodoros Mouriades

Closing event of the Symposium

Greek Monuments listed by UNESCO

Photographic exhibition at Mohammed Ali Museum

Every year, on 18th of April, UNESCO celebrates the “International Day for Monuments and Sites”, which establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983.

The aim of the International Day for Monuments and Sites is to encourage local communities and individuals throughout the world to consider the importance of cultural heritage to their lives, identities and communities, and to promote awareness of its diversity and vulnerability and the efforts required to protect and conserve it. 18th of April is celebrated all over the world by a wide range of organizations and many UNESCO’s National and International Scientific Committees. Events include scientific conferences and symposium, exhibitions, photography competitions, excursions, press conferences, the awarding of prizes, releasing press releases, publishing magazine articles and projecting films, among others.

MOHA Research Center in cooperation with the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO inaugurates on Saturday, 16th of April, 2016, at 20:00 the photo exhibition “GREEK UNESCO’S WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENTS”, in the Mohammed Ali Museum in Kavala, Greece which will last until 15th of May, 2016.