"WORKING METALS, MOVING BODIES: MORTARS AND DRUMS FROM AFGHANISTAN TO ANATOLIA IN THE 12TH AND 13TH CENTURIES"
Persis Berlekamp, University of Chicago
Part of the Silsila Fall 2022 series, Body and Senses
Pre-modern bronze production depended not only on specialized technical knowledge, but also on access to ores with chemically viable combinations of metals. Accordingly, areas with rich mines, such as Afghanistan and Anatolia, held special importance for the history of medieval Islamic bronze. In the turbulent twelfth and thirteenth centuries, contact between these very regions intensified as waves of refugees flooded westwards. What implications did this have for the facture, form, and function of bronze objects? Considering surviving mortars and drums in relation to the bodies that effected them, as well in relation to the bodies effected by their use, yields a multivalent, yet socially situated, view of bronze, foment, and resonance in a turbulent era.
Persis Berlekamp is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. She researches the roles visual arts played in major cultural shifts and debates of the late medieval Islamic world (11th-15th centuries). Then, as now, the arts engaged with migration, cultural encounter, and heritage. Understanding the range of ways this happened in an era before the Enlightenment, the nation state, and the Industrial Revolution, helps us see the art differently, while highlighting historically specific aspects of our own assumptions and experience.