Objects of Translation by Professor Finbarr Barry Flood awarded the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize

6 Apr

Professor Finbarr Barry Flood’s book, Objects of Translation:  Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter (Princeton University Press, 2009) has been awarded the 2011 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, South Asia Council.

Named for the Sri Lankan-born philosopher and pioneering historian of South Asian art, the Coomaraswamy Book prize is awarded annually to “broad scholarly works with innovative approaches that promise to define or redefine understanding of whole subject areas. . . . The book’s subject matter must deal with South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) and may concern any topic in any discipline, or it may cross disciplinary lines.”

The Selection Committee’s citation gives a sense of the themes engaged in Flood’s book and its pathbreaking contributions to the field:

“Finbarr Flood’s Objects of Translation is a magisterial study of material culture and community identity in South Asia from the eighth to the early thirteenth century. In tracing the Muslim advance eastward from the Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates in western Asia, Flood complements textual data by analyzing objects to reveal how peoples of diverse ethnicities evolved patterns of political and social co-existence and synthesis. Using coins, clothing, and architecture, he documents the fluidity of relationships –political, economic, social, and religious — and the dense networks of circulation that linked Muslims of Arab, Persian and Turkish descent to Rajput and other Hindus. In patronizing, creating, and using these objects, Muslim and Hindu elites shared center stage with stonemasons, carvers, illustrators, and soldiers.

Particularly noteworthy for our understanding of the evolution of an Islamic culture not constrained by later imperial and nation-state boundaries or indeed, religious ideologies, is the incisive and balanced analysis of the implications of ‘loot’ and ‘reused’ elements in architecture, especially in the construction of the great thirteenth-century Qutb Minar complex in Delhi. Objects of Translation is a timely contribution to medieval Indian historical studies, a major addition to translation theory and historical-cultural studies, and a field-changing work of art history. It is a landmark.”

Objects of Translation was named a CHOICE Magazine Outstanding Academic Title in 2009.

Finbarr Barry Flood is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities at the Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History.  Before coming to NYU in 2001 as Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History (then, the Department of Fine Arts), he held post-doctoral research fellowships at Oxford and Harvard.  He has been a research fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA), as well as a Getty Scholar and a Carnegie Foundation Scholar.  Professor Flood is the author of The Great Mosque of Damascus:  Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture (Brill, 2000) and numerous articles, essays, and reviews on Islamic and Indian art of the medieval through modern periods.  He is the editor of Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque (Oxford University Press India, 2008) and the co-editor of Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century, a special volume of the journal Ars Orientalis (2011). The recipient (in 2006) of a Golden Dozen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the College of Arts and Science, Professor Flood is a dynamic lecturer and challenging teacher whose lecture courses, “Art in the Islamic World:  From the Prophet to the Mongols” and “Art in the Islamic World:  From the Mongols to Modernism,” and seminars on iconoclasm, Orientalism, and other topics are tremendously popular with NYU students.

Kathryn A. Smith


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