Kishwar Rizvi

Kishwar Rizvi

Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Visiting Professor
Imagining a World: Artistic and Cultural Encounters in Early Modern Iran
Kishwar Rizvi


Kishwar Rizvi is Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Yale University. Her recent publications include The Transnational Mosque: Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), for which she was selected as a Carnegie Foundation Scholar, and Emotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Muslim Empires: New studies in Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal art and culture, editor, (Brill, 2017). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as well as the Graham Foundation. Professor Rizvi’s fieldwork includes research in several parts of the Middle East, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

Project Summary

Imagining a World focuses on Iran at the turn of the seventeenth century, when the Safavid Empire was known for its robust economy, diverse population, and dynamic cities. Prominent among the products of Shah Abbas’ reign are the chronicles dedicated to him and the extensive architectural and engineering projects he commissioned. In addition to establishing the magnificent city of Isfahan as a world capital through a dynamic reconfiguration of its architectural and urban design, the Shah envisioned Iran as a destination for travelers from the far reaches of Europe and Asia, as documented in travelogues, epistles, and prints. This period also evinced the rise of individualist modes of representation, from personal biographies to portraiture. The implications for the study of art are profound, as these media served to translate and often transmit differences across linguistic and political realms. Moving beyond disciplinary boundaries, the project juxtaposes visual and textual material against studies of mobility and exchange, as well as Iranian artistic production against its European corollaries. The result will be a study which considers the ways in which early modern subjects, be they rulers, artists, or diplomats, imagined their place within an interconnected world; and in which artworks demonstrated, even enabled, changing conceptions of selfhood.