I study magnificent—sometimes impoverished—and environmentally important landscapes in the Islamic world, the Mediterranean, and South Asia. I am particularly fascinated by the past and present interconnections between human society and water management—both the failures and the successes—and my research in that area led me to develop a popular undergraduate environmental history course on water from ancient Pompeii to the Ganges to 20th-century Chicago. Because I also care deeply about how current social values affect the way we steward and preserve the historic traces of the past, I helped found a program in cultural heritage studies at UIUC with annual symposia that have been published. An experimental graduate seminar on the senses led me to organize the conference “Sound and Scent in the Garden” at Dumbarton Oaks in DC (rated by National Geographic as the sixth most beautiful garden in the world). My interests in water, heritage, architecture, and the sensory experience of landscape converged in summer 2015 when I co-directed an NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers at the historic Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. While my current book project concerns a 13th-century Egyptian queen and her patronage of architecture and space in Cairo, another major project funded by the Getty Foundation will take me to Cyprus to work with colleagues at The Cyprus Institute over the next three years.
My films on Islamic art, architecture, and gardens for the National Endowment for the Humanities: Islamic Art Spots
My lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Islamic monuments and national patrimony in Spain: lecture
My lecture on the Great Mosque of Cordoba at the Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art in Qatar: lecture