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

edited by Christiane Gruber
series edited by Melanie Gibson


240x290mm Hardback Portrait
Published: June 2019
Pages: 240
Illustrations: over 200 colour illustrations

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‘Assembling an all-star cast of contributors, Christiane Gruber has put together an outstanding exploration of visual sensibilities in the history of Islam.[…] One after the other, chapters explore the political, philosophical, aesthetic, and devotional aspects of imaging to model how the study of religious visual culture should be done’
—Professor David Morgan, Duke University

The images released by The 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 act of iconoclasm by arguing that such actions were divinely decreed in Islam, a notion that has remained fixed in the public consciousness.

The Image Debate is a collection of thirteen essays that 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.

The book is divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties concerned 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 by examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.

Christiane Gruber is Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her primary fields of research include Islamic book art, figural painting and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Contributors: Shiva Balaghi, James Bennett, Robert DeCaroli, Christiane Gruber, Steven Fine, Finbarr Barry Flood, Rose Issa, Mika Natif, Oya Pancaroğlu, Allen F. Roberts, Mary Nooter Roberts, Yousuf Saeed, Michael Shenkar, Alicia Walker