Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. A historian and architect, his research interests include the history and historiography of Islamic architecture, urbanism, and cultures, Mamluk history, modern Arab history, contemporary Arab art, and post-colonial criticism.
Professor Rabbat has published several books and numerous scholarly articles. His most recent books are The Destruction of Cultural Heritage: From Napoléon to ISIS (2016), co-edited with Pamela Karimi, and Al- Naqd Iltizaman: Nazarat fi-l Tarikh wal ‘Ururba wal Thawra (Criticism as Commitment: Viewpoints on History, Arabism, and Revolution) (2015). He is currently completing an intellectual biography of the 15th century historian al-Maqrizi and a book on the “Dead Cities”, a unique and threatened late-antique site in Syria.
He has previously published: Mamluk History Through Architecture: Building, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (2010); Thaqafat al-Bina’ wa-Bina’ al-Thaqafa (The Culture of Building and Building Culture) (2002); and The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture (1995). He edited The Courtyard House between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (2010, 2nd edition 2016), co-edited Making Cairo Medieval (2005), and co-authored Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001).
Professor Rabbat regularly contributes to a number of Arabic newspapers on political and cultural issues. He lectures extensively in the US and abroad, consults with international design firms on projects in the Islamic world, and maintains several websites focused on Islamic architecture and urbanism. He has recently become involved in the debate on reconstruction and heritage conservation in Syria. He has established a collaborative research project at MIT, named “Ethics of Intervention”; co-founded Syrians for Heritage (SIMAT), an association concerned with the preservation of Syria’s cultural heritage; and co-curated, with Filiz Çakır Phillip, the exhibition “Syria: A Living History” at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in 2016-17.
Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. Program."The Architecture of Refugees: The Question of Ethics" Cambridge, MA: AKPIA, 2017.
Significant transformations in the world’s political landscape
are signaling the emergence of a new world order
that undermines the certitudes established at the end
of World War II. At the core of such discussions, the concept
of human rights is significantly challenged, calling for
a discussion at the core of ethics for the revisions of the
principles and mechanisms of intervention. In reaction to
these new transformations some have called for a World
Parliament representing the people and not governments
to replace the UN General Assembly.
The workshop addresses the agency of architecture and
design in a context where the disrespect of human rights
is aggravated by the incapacity of global institutions to
react efficiently. What are the ethical questions regarding
the architecture of refugees? What timescales, short
or long terms, represent a priority for architecture and
through which agenda – refugee relief, historical preservation,
camp upgrades and daily life, or rebuilding and resettlement?
What is the role of design in front of the degradation
and destruction of cultural artifacts? How can
design be channeled towards peace building objectives
and possible resettlement projects? What are the material,
technological, systemic responses to address emergency
needs in the context of refugee camps? Includes a schedule and biographies of speakers.