Decoding the cultural lives of monuments and the many meanings that accrue to them in time has been vital to art historical inquiry. In this framework, this dissertation explores the composite meanings constructed around the 13th-14th century madrasas (theological seminaries) commissioned by the Marinids (1269-1465), primarily at Fez in Morocco. As independent built-forms, these institutions emerged conspicuously late in the Maghrib (western North Africa), and thus, their emergence under the Marinids raises vital questions about their social, ideological and visual meanings. Fusing these madrasas' historical incidence with nuances of their visual formation in the social, cultural, and political realm of 14th-century Maghrib as well as the Mediterranean, the dissertation seeks to attend to the wider implications of their presence, and place these structures in the domain of their concurrences with and departures from the visuality of similar educational institutions in other Islamic cultures.
At the outset, addressing the relatively unusual presence of a madrasa in the Marinid dynastic necropolis of the Chella near Rabat by suggesting that the Marinids aligned themselves with the consecrated aura of this ancient site, the dissertation subsequently moves to understand the emergence of the Marinid madrasas, not only in light of the cultural and political aspirations of the Marinid sovereignty, but also in relation to issues of the urban topography of Fez, and the economy of waqf (endowment) and water which is inscribed in their formation. In exploring the madrasas' spatial, decorative and inscriptional schema, the dissertation seeks to understand their architectural embellishments as a visual archive geared for transmission through the art of memory. Also, the correspondences between the functions and the visuality of these madrasas can be understood as a symptom of the power-knowledge nexus involving the Marinid state patronage. Probing the visual formation of the Marinid madrasas on several levels, the dissertation raises pertinent queries about these madrasas' transformed visual meanings over time, foregrounding the implications of colonial modernity for scholastic engagement with the art and architectural production in the Islamic west.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2011. Major: Art History. Advisor: Catherine B. Asher. 1 computer file (PDF); xx, 271 pages.
Latif, Riyaz Mansur.
Ornate visions of knowledge and power: formation of Marinid Madrasas in Maghrib al-Aqsâ..
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