The Institute of Ismaili Studies

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Yasser Tabbaa


Yasser Tabbaa graduated in 1972 with a degree in Anthropology from 1972 to 1975 he worked at the Department of Antiquities in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which included an eight-month programme in Iraq for archaeology and conservation. He acquired his M.A. in 1977 and Ph.D in 1983 from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, where he studied Islamic art with Professor Richard Ettinghausen. He has published several articles from his dissertation, The Architectural Patronage of Nur al-Din, 1146-74, including pieces on Jihad propaganda and, most recently, the mosque of Nur al-Din in Mosul. Extending his work to succeeding periods, Tabbaa published a book entitled Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (Penn State Press, 1996), which deals with palatial and religious architecture under the Ayyubids. Stepping outside the boundaries of social art history, Tabbaa has maintained since the mid 1980s an abiding interest in the semiotic dimensions of Islamic architectural forms, including calligraphy and the muqarnas dome. Between 1992 and 1999, he published three articles in Ars Orientalis that discussed the significance of the transformation of Arabic writing, both Qur‘anic and monumental, from angular to cursive, linking this transformation to contemporary political and religious conflicts. His most recent book, The Transformation of Islamic Art During the Sunni Revival (University of Washington Press, 2001, 2002) looks broadly at the radical transformations undergone by Islamic architectural forms in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Tabbaa‘s forthcoming book deals with the history of the hospital and medical care in the pre-modern Islamic world. Tabbaa has taught Islamic art, architecture, and urbanism at University Texas-Austin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University Michigan, Southern Methodist University, and Oberlin College. He lives in Ann Arbor Michigan.