Ruba Kana’an

Ruba Kana’an

Monday, October 7, 2019 - 9:09am

POSITION: Assistant Professor, CLTA (Contractually Limited Term Appointment)

ACADEMIC UNIT:  Visual Studies



“Teaching is my passion and first love, and I am a researcher by constitution.”

Growing up in Jordan, surrounded by its history and ancient culture, Ruba Kana’an, an assistant professor of Islamic art and architecture, says it should come as no surprise that she is fascinated by the built environment and the history behind it.

Kana’an earned an architectural engineering degree in her native Amman, before realizing that it was the history of the buildings, rather than constructing them, that really attracted her. She earned a master’s degree and PhD in Islamic art and architecture at the University of Oxford followed by a teaching and research position. After moving to Canada with her husband and teaching at York University, she accepted a position at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, “shaping the conversation about Islamic art.”

Working at a museum added another dimension to her understanding of Islamic art. But “teaching is my passion and first love, and I am a researcher by constitution,” she says. When a position in Islamic art and architecture opened at UTM, “I jumped on it.”

Kana’an’s specialty is exploring Islamic art and architecture through the lens of Islamic law. Her recent research focuses on 13th-century Mosul, Iraq, and she teaches a related course entitled Artist and Craftsmen in Medieval Muslim Society. “Mosul was a centre for the production of amazing brasses inlaid with silver – beautiful and complex objects,” Kana’an says. “I’m interested in how they were made, who commissioned them and whose intellectual property they were. I look at what it means to be an artist in the medieval context.”

Kana’an is also working on a book about the major Friday mosques where Muslims perform weekly congregational prayers in cities like Baghdad, Cairo, Istanbul, and Isfahan, exploring when and why they were built and proposing a new approach to monumental architecture.

“Islamic art is a very young field – about 100 years old,” she says, noting that in the past 20 years the field has begun moving from a focus on classifying objects to analysis of the objects. “I am very privileged to be part of it,” Kana’an says.

Selected Publications:

  1. In press “‘And God Will Protect You from Mankind’ (Q 5:67): A Talismanic Shirt from West Africa,” in Approaches to the Qur’an in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by Zulfikar Hirji, Oxford University Press, pp. 259-285 (forthcoming September, 2019)

2.   “The Social and Economic History of Metalwork. 1050-1250,” with James W. Allan. A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Gulru Necipoglu and Finbarr B. Flood, Blackwell Companions to Art History, Wiley-Blackwell (2017) vol. 1, pp. 453-477 

3.   “Patron and Craftsman of the Freer Mosul Ewer of 1232: a Historical and Legal Interpretation of the Roles of tilmidh and ghulam in Islamic Metalwork,” Ars Orientalis, vol. 42, (2012) pp. 67-78.

Read about other new faculty members at UTM.