Doris Behrens-Abouseif#

Short laudatio by Barbara Kellner-Heinkele#

In the last 15 years, Professor Doris Behrens-Abouseif has ascerted herself as one of the internationally leading historians of Islamic art and architecture per se and as an unrivaled authority of the art and architecture of the Mamluks and Ottomans in Egypt. Her expertise also comprises waqf history, the decorative arts of Islam (1250-1800), later Islamic painting, Islamic aesthetics. Her influential publications deal with the cultural history of Egypt, e.g. Mamluk institutions and ceremonial, the creation and organization of religious endowments, and urban history.

She started her academic career in Islamic Studies, Semitic Studies and Old Testament (Hamburg University), publishing her Ph.D. Thesis on the status of the Coptic community in Egyptian society (19th and early 20th century) in 1972 (Freiburg). She obtained her M.A. degree in Islamic Art and Architecture (American U. of Cairo, 1979) with a study on "The Architecture and Topography of North Cairo in the 15th Century" which became part of a book published in 1985 (Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale (IFAO), Cairo). She obtained a further academic degree, the Habilitation - conveyed at German universities, at Freiburg University (1992) with a thesis on "Waqf and Architecture in Ottoman Cairo, 16th and 17th Centuries" (publ. Leiden-Köln-New York 1994). This research activity was supported by three grants of the Aga-Khan Program and grants of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Volkswagen Foundation and the DAAD. Prof. Behrens-Abouseif’s research resulted in three additional books and more than 50 articles in prominent collective volumes and leading international journals of Islamic Studies or Islamic art and architecture (in English, German, French, Italian) on topics such as: Mamluk and post-Mamluk metalwork (IFAO, Cairo 1995), the minarets of Cairo (Cairo 1985, 1987), single monuments (mosques, mausoleums, dervish convents, palaces) from Mamluk and Ottoman times in Egypt and Syria, decorative styles and methods, the guilds, patronage of art (Cairo 1987), religious foundations (waqf), islamic gardens. It is important to underline that Prof. Behrens-Abouseif always knows to combine the precision of the historian and the perception of the historian of art with philological skills. Her "Beauty in Arabic Culture" (Princeton 1999, German ed. 1998) is a landmark in the appreciation of Islamic arts as such. Her monograph "Islamic Architecture in Cairo - an Introduction (Leiden-Köln-New York 1989, 1992) she will match with a special monograph on Mamluk art (2006).

The fundamental importance of the Mamluk period within the history of the Islamic world has been properly understood only in the last 20-30 years. Prof. Behrens-Abouseif is one of the leading authorities in this field. She is not only recognized as an innovative researcher and experienced leader of important projects, she is also known at a number of international universities as an inspiring teacher, and she is much appreciated by her colleagues for her input into the activities of international organizations of Islamic art and architecture.

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