Art history scholar links Sunni and Shi’i architectural heritage in fifth annual Kazimi Lecture

Stephennie Mulder, Kazimi Lecture
Kazimi lecture Stephennie Mulder

Stephennie Mulder, an associate professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin, presented her research during the Rice University School of Humanities’ fifth annual Kazimi Lecture in Shi’i Studies Feb. 15. The lecture titled “The Architecture of Coexistence” and moderated by Jeffrey Kripal, Rice’s J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion, highlighted insights from medieval Syrian shrines and their relevance to modern sectarianism.

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Departing from the traditional sectarian narrative in the Middle East, Mulder’s lecture explored the architecture of medieval Syria, revealing a nuanced interaction between Sunni and Shi’i communities. Drawing from her 2014 book “The Shrines of the ’Alids in Medieval Syria,” Mulder challenged the prevailing notion of inherent sectarianism in Islamic history, advocating for a more detailed perspective characterized by pragmatic cooperation. She emphasized the pluralistic past of Syria’s shrines, showcasing a history marked by coexistence rather than conflict.

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