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Associate Professor Ömür Harmanşah publishes “The Conversion of Hagia Sophia: Desire, Spectacle, and a Historical Re-Enactment”

hagia sophia

Responding to: Hagia Sophia: From Museum to Mosque


One of the courses that I particularly enjoy teaching at the university is called Architecture and Memory, where my students and I explore case studies of monuments and ordinary buildings which are both sites of memory for world communities and sites of conflict. Architectural monuments often have deep geo-histories (relatively much deeper than the human timeframe). These histories are materially imprinted with cultural and political layers, laid by different religious and other heritage groups, and their long-lasting legacies. The destruction of the giant rock-carved Buddha images in Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan in 2001, the demolition of the sixteenth-century Babri Masjid in India’s Uttar Pradesh region in 1992, Saddam Hussein’s reconstruction of the neo-Babylonian structures at Babylon, and overlapping and undermining claims over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem by different religious stakeholders are some of the case studies that we cover. All of these deeply historical sites are layered, complex sites of heritage that are sites of both remembering and conflict, where desires directed at specific episodes in their prolonged lives are mobilized for contemporary political action, and sometimes destruction and violence.