Office: Fine Arts 307
Phone: (607) 777-5864
Specialization: Visual culture, built environment, urbanism, and material exchange around the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean littoral; Islamic art and architecture; Yemen; early modern commerce and cross-cultural exchange; domestic and commercial architecture.
Nancy Um received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Islamic Art and Architectural History from UCLA. She joined the art history faculty at Binghamton University as an assistant professor in 2001.
While teaching broadly in the archaeology, arts, architecture and urbanism of the Middle East and South Asia, her research examines the visual culture and built environments of trading communities around the Indian Ocean rim in the early modern period. Her book The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009) explores the question of how maritime trade saturated the visual and built world of 17th and 18th C Yemen, with a focus on the Red Sea port city of Mocha, which was known internationally for its trade in coffee. In it, she examines the nature of Arab domestic and commercial architecture, critical issues in port city urbanism, and the politics of difference and spatial practices within city space.
Currently, she is engaged with two ongoing projects. The first explores the protocols and practices of merchant tribute in Yemen in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on the grammar of exchange between the English, Dutch, and the Qasimi Imams and their representatives. The second examines Red Sea architecture in cross-cultural perspective, with a consideration of Suakin in Sudan, Massawa in Eritrea, Yanbu’ and Jidda in Saudi Arabia, and al-Hudayda, al-Luhayya, and Mocha in Yemen.
She has conducted field and archival research in Turkey, Yemen, the Netherlands, and England. She is the recipient of a number of research fellowships, including those from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.
Nancy Um is the Reviews Editor at the newly launched International Journal of Islamic Architecture. See the journal’s website for submission information: http://www.intellectbooks.com/ijia
“Reflections on the Red Sea Style: Beyond the Surface of Coastal Architecture,” Northeast African Studies 12:1 (2012): 243-271.
“Greenlaw’s Suakin: The Limits of Architectural Representation and the Continuing Lives of Buildings in Coastal Sudan,” African Arts 44:4 (Winter 2011): 36 - 51.
“From the Port of Mocha to the Eighteenth-Century Tomb of Imam al-Mahdi Muhammad in al-Mawahib: Locating Architectural Icons and Migratory Craftsmen,” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 41 (2011): 387-400.
“Reconsidering Red Sea Architecture: Building Traditions at the Hinge between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review Working Papers Series 226 (2010): 37 - 60.
The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009).
"Port Biography: Mocha," Encyclopedia of Maritime History. Ed. by John Hattendorf. 4 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 2:580-1.
"Eighteenth-Century Patronage in Sanaa: Building for the New Capital in the Second Century of the Qasimi Imamate," Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 34 (2004): 361 - 375.
"Spatial Negotiations in a Commercial City: The Red Sea Port of Mocha, Yemen during the First Half of the Eighteenth Century," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 62:2 (June 2003): 178 - 193.
"English Gifts in Yemen: Merchant Tribute and the Social Protocols of Trade in the Early Eighteenth Century," Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Lecture Series, Binghamton University, April 11, 2012.
“The Calligraphic Arts of India: Three Manuscript Pages in the University Art Museum,” Binghamton University Art Museum, March 15, 2012.
“Negotiating Land and Sea: The Urban Form of the Port City of Mocha, Yemen,” Annual Meeting of the Association for American Geographers, New York, February 24, 2012.
“Coffee, Cash, and Gifts: Merchant Tribute and the World of Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Yemen,” School of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities Seminar Series, University of California, Merced, January 26, 2012.
“The Legacy of Ottoman Architecture in Yemen: Strategies of Monumentality and Invisibility at the Southern Edge of the Empire,” Pepperdine Art History Society, Pepperdine University, November 14, 2011.
“Imported Constructs: Viewing Red Sea Architecture from the Sea,” The Social Life of Port Architecture: History, Politics, Commerce, and Culture, Centre for Port and Maritime History, University of Liverpool, June 24, 2011.
“Suakin after its Heyday: The Legacy of Architectural Drawing and the Dynamics of Local Preservation in Coastal British Sudan,” Viz Cult Lecture Series, Department of Art History, Binghamton University, April 13, 2011.
“1636: From the Edge of the Mediterranean World to the Center of the Global Coffee Market: Yemen after the First Ottoman Era,” Asia Inside Out: Period, HK Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong, December 20, 2010.
“Reconsidering Red Sea Architecture: Building Traditions at the Hinge between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean,” International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments Conference: The Utopia of Tradition, Beirut, Lebanon, December 17, 2010.
“Medical Diplomacy and Coffee Troubles: Episodes in the Foreign Relations of the Qasimi Imams of Yemen during the late 17th century and the early 18th century,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, November 19, 2010.
“Traces of India in Early Eighteenth-Century Yemen: The Tomb of Imam al-Mahdi Muhammad in al-Mawahib,” Seminar for Arabian Studies, British Museum, London, England, July 23, 2010.
Hala Auji, “The Printed Word and the American Syria Mission: Exploring Books and their Readers in the Arab World, 1860-1900.” Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, in progress.
Raed Al Tal. "Structures of Authority: A Sociopolitical Account of Building in Jordan." Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, 2006.
Deniz Karakas. "Clay Pipes, Marble Surfaces: The Topographies of Water Supply and Waste Disposal in the Outskirts of the Early Eighteenth Century Ottoman Capital." Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, in progress.
Lalaine Bangilan Little. "Made in Japan? Questioning the Collaborations underlying Namban Art." M.A. Thesis, Binghamton University, 2008.
Lalaine Bangilan Little, “Portable Devotion: Philippine Christian Visual Culture, 1521 – 1815.” Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, in progress.
Shriya Sridharan. "Srirangam's New Antiquity - Negotiating the Hindu Temple's Divine and Historic Pasts in a Global Present." Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, 2012.
Meiqin Wang. "Confrontation and Complicity: Rethinking Official Art in Contemporary China." Ph.D. dissertation, Binghamton University, 2007.
Undergraduate Lecture Courses
Introduction to Art and Architecture of the Asian World (100-level)
Royalty, Kingship and the Court: Arts of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals (200-level)
Culture, Dwellings, Design (200-level)
Gilded Pages: Calligraphy, Illumination and Illustration in the Islamic World (300-level)
Cairo: Islamic Architecture and the City (300-level)
The Sultan's Palace
The Art of the Gift: Material Culture and the Logic of Reciprocity
A World of Goods: Medieval and Early Modern Commodities in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Houses on the Move: Vernacular Architecture in Transhistorical and Transregional Perspective
Art in the Age of Discoveries: Visual Culture and Maritime Trade, 1500-1800
Last Updated: 8/3/12