Dr Simon O'Meara
My BA and MA are in Art History, both with a strong component of visual theory, but my PhD (Leeds, 2004) is in Arabic and Islamic Studies. I chose that particular PhD path because, having lived in Fez, Morocco for a number of years after completing the MA I felt I needed expertise in subjects not necessarily associated with Islamic art history. I wanted to understand the "Islam" part of Islamic art. After obtaining the PhD, I taught art history for 5 years at the American University of Kuwait, Kuwait, where I was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor. I then left there for a 4-year fellowship at the University of Utrecht, Holland, where I was made the material culture research fellow on the European Research Council-funded project, "The here and the hereafter in Islamic traditions" (http://hhit.wp.hum.uu.nl). I joined SOAS in September 2013, but deferred my arrival by one year in order to complete this fellowship.
I am an architectural historian of pre-Islamic, and early to pre-modern Islamic, urban culture. I have a regional specialism in North Africa and a methodological interest in using the foundational and/or preponderant discourses of Islamic culture to help explore the spatial and visual logic of urban Muslim societies. My first monograph, Space and Muslim Urban Life: At the Limits of the Labyrinth of Fez (2007), demonstrated the utility of this approach, for in analysing a fundamental unit of Islamic urban architecture, the party wall, according to its treatment in religious, legal, and literary discourses, it revealed a hitherto unexamined spatial and visual structuring phenomenon at play in the late medieval and pre-modern Arab-Muslim city. I am currently completing my second monograph, this time on the Kaaba and the spatial, visual, and other orientations it effectuates. It is provisionally titled, The Kaaba Orientations: How a House became a Home. My next project will likely concern the representation of architecture in medieval and pre-modern Arab and Persianate miniature painting.