Viewing Mocha from Sea, Air, and Land

Speaker: Nancy Um, Binghamton University
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
October 24, 9:00 - 10:30 AM (Shanghai)
October 23, 9:00 - 10:30 PM (New York)
October 24, 5:00 - 6:30 AM (Abu Dhabi)

In the seventeenth century, port city vistas emerged as popular imagery that frequently accompanied maritime travelogues and merchant narratives, proliferated actively by Dutch presses. While the texts of these books have been scrutinized, their accompanying images require closer examination. In this talk, I will take up several views of the port city of Mocha, on the Red Sea coast of Yemen, from that era. They include iconic printed images which originated in the Netherlands, but also an Indian painting workshop. These varied representations will be treated in conversation with each other and explored through the complicated relationships that they sustained between port city spaces, travel narratives, and image genres in the seventeenth century, a time when Red Sea and Indian Ocean travel, for both trade and pilgrimage, generated considerable visual interest.

Nancy Um is professor of art history at Binghamton University. Her research explores the Islamic world from the perspective of the coast, with a focus on material, visual, and built culture on the Arabian Peninsula and around the rims of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Her first book, The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (University of Washington Press, 2009), relies upon a cross-section of visual, architectural, and textual sources to present the early modern coastal city of Mocha as a space that was nested within wider world networks, structured to communicate with far-flung ports and cities across a vast matrix of exchange. Her second book, Shipped but not Sold: Material Culture and the Social Order of Trade during Yemen’s Age of Coffee (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), explores the material practices and informal social protocols that undergirded the overseas trade in 18th C Yemen.

Um’s articles have appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, African Arts, Northeast African Studies, Journal of Early Modern History, Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, Art History, and Getty Research Journal. She has received research fellowships from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

Introduction by Tansen Sen, Director of the Center for Global Asia, Professor of History, NYU Shanghai; Global Network Professor, NYU.

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