Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT where he has been teaching since 1991. His interests include Islamic art and architecture, medieval urban history and historiography, and post-colonial criticism and its ramifications for the study of architectural history. He teaches courses on architecture in the Islamic world in general, in specific cities, or on particular themes such as environmentally responsive vernacular architecture. His seminars include Islamic urbanism, cultural signification in architecture, and Orientalism.
Professor Rabbat earned his BArch from the University of Damascus, his MArch II from UCLA, and his PhD from MIT. His dissertation "The Citadel of Cairo, 1176-1341: Reconstructing Architecture from Texts" won the 1991 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award from the Middle East Study Association. A book based on the same, The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture, was published in 1995. Professor Rabbat has a book of essays on architecture in Arabic which will be published in January 2002 by Riad Alrayyes Publisher, Beirut, Lebanon. The book is titled, Thaqafat al Bina1 wa Bina1 al-Thaqafa (The Culture of Building and Building Culture).
He is currently working on two projects: a book on the fifteenth-century historian al-Maqrizi and his Khitat, titled, Historicizing the City: The Significance of Maqrizi's Khitat, which will be published by Brill in 2003, and a book on the problems of representation in Mamluk sources, tentatively entitled, Shaping the Mamluk Image: The Scope of the Sources. He is also co-editing the 1999 Kevorkian Lectures at NYU, which will soon be published under the title, A Medieval Cairo for A Modern World. In addition to publishing essays in scholarly journals on Islamic cultural and architectural history and historiography, architectural criticism, and medieval urbanism, Professor Rabbat is a contributor to the following Arabic journals: Wughat Nazar, Akhbar al-Adab, Jaridat al-Funun, al-Hayat and al-Mustaqbal.
Rabbat, Nasser. 2011. What is Islamic Architecture? In Architecture in Islamic Arts: Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum. Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture
This article offers a critical review of scholarship on Islamic architecture in the last two centuries. It raises methodological and historiographical questions about the field’s formation, development, and historical and theoretical contours through a discussion of the positions of its main figures. One question treated here is that of how to study a culturally defined architectural tradition like Islamic architecture without reducing it to essential and timeless categories. Another question is that of how one is to critique the dominant Western paradigm without turning away from its comparative perspective. But the most important goal of the article is to reclaim the assumed temporal boundaries of Islamic architecture – Late Antiquity as a predecessor and modernism as a successor – as constitutive forces in its evolution and definition.