About Prof. Ruggles
I study magnificent and environmentally complicated landscapes in the Islamic world, the Mediterranean, and South Asia. As a scholar with a long commitment to the environmental humanities, I am particularly fascinated by the past and present interconnections between human society and water management—both the failures and the successes. Because I also care deeply about how current social values affect the way we steward, preserve, and interpret the historic traces of the past, I helped found a program in cultural heritage studies at UIUC with annual symposia with published proceedings. My interests in water, heritage, architecture, and the sensory experience of landscape converged in 2015 when I co-directed an NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers at the historic Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. In 2018–20, I co-directed a Getty “Connecting Art Histories” program for emerging scholars in Cyprus, Greece, Rhodes, and Spain.
In addition to my primary appointment in Landscape Architecture, I also have appointments in Art History, Architecture, Medieval Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Studies, the Center for South Asian and Middle East Studies, Women and Gender in Global Perspectives, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. This intellectual breadth is reflected in my teaching and my published works on landscape history, heritage, and women’s history. I serve as the Art and Architecture Field Editor for the Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd edition). My most recent book is Tree of Pearls (Oxford University Press, 2020), which tells the story of a woman who rose from slavery to become the sultan of Egypt in the mid-13th century and an important patron of architecture and urban space.
- AB cum laude, Harvard University, 1980
- MA, University of Pennsylvania, 1987
- PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1991
Research and publications
Ongoing and upcoming research
I am currently working on a book that explores the built environment of Granada (11th–15th centuries) through a materialist perspective that begins with water canals, natural topography, and climate.
I am also compiling a new collection that translates sources on Islamic garden and landscape history from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, making the texts available to scholars and students in other disciplines (following the model of Islamic Art and Visual Culture, 2011)
Tree of Pearls: The Extraordinary Architectural Patronage of the 13th-Century Egyptian Slave-Queen Shajar al-Durr. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. Winner of the Nancy Lapp Popular Book Award from the American Schools of Oriental Research, 2020.
The Aga Khan Museum Guide, co-authored with Henry Kim, Ruba Kana’an, and Philip Jodidio. Toronto: Aga Khan Museum for Islamic Art, 2014. An expanded version of the book published by Rizzoli has the title Pattern and Light: Aga Khan Museum; French edition: Forme et Lumière: Le Musée Aga Khan.
Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Winner of the J.B. Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies; publication grant from the Getty Foundation; and finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award from the College Art Association. Translated into Japanese in 2012; translated into Turkish in 2017.
Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2000. Winner of the Eleanor Tufts Award from the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies; Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association.
Teaching and advising
- Islamic Landscape and Architecture—an introductory course for undergraduates
- Visual Theory—an advanced seminar for graduate students
- The Alhambra—a seminar for graduate students
- Cultural Heritage—a seminar for advanced undergraduate and graduate students
- Environmental Materialism—a seminar for graduate students
- Colloquium for new doctoral students in the School of Architecture and the Department of Landscape Architecture