Working to improve mutual understanding between the Middle East and the West


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The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World

The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World, edited by Christiane Gruber

(Forthcoming in June 2019)

The images released by Islamic State of militants smashing statues at ancient sites were a horrifying aspect of their advance across Northern Iraq and Syria during 2015-16. Their leaders justified this iconoclasm (destruction of images) by arguing that such actions were divinely decreed in Islam, a notion that has remained fixed in the public consciousness.

The Image DebateFigural Representation in Islam and Across the World is a collection of thirteen essays which examine the controversy surrounding the use of images in Islamic and other religious cultures and seek to redress some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. Written by leading academics from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the United Kingdom, the book opens with an introduction by the editor Christiane Gruber, who sets the subject in context with a detailed examination of the debates over idols and the production of figural images in Islamic traditions. Twelve further articles are divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties with image-making; the second addresses similar issues in Judaism, in Christianity during the Byzantine period, in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, and in Hindu and Buddhist contexts in South Asia; and the third brings the reader back to Islamic lands with five articles examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.


Click here for information about a lecture on the same theme delivered by Christiane Gruber in February 2018.