Ian B. Straughn Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology

My research and teaching interests focus on the emerging study of the archaeology of the Muslim World. This work was first developed while a graduate student in Anthropology at the 

University of Chicago and has continued as a member of the Joukowsky Institute faculty, and currently the University Library. More specifically my work has concentrated on understanding how Muslim societies have been shaped by the landscapes which they have constructed and conceived and by their relationship to the material world. A major aspect of my research has consisted of developing a methodology for bringing the archaeological and textual records into a productive dialogue about past societies. Additionally, my work has sought to understand the relationship of materiality to religious experience and the place of archaeology in the study of religion.

Brown Affiliations

scholarly work

Selected Publications:

The Contemplation of Ruins: Heritage Practice and the Cosmopolitanism of Cairo's Islamic Past. In On Location: Heritage Cities and Sites, ed. D. Fairchild Ruggles, Springer. 193-212

"Medina" entry for The Encyclopedia of Medieval Patronage. Ed. L. Taylor et al. Leiden: Brill.

Review of Negotiating the Past in the Past. ed. Norm Yoffee. 2008. in American Antiquity (74:4 585)

"Trashed-out: An archaeological reading of the foreclosure crisis." Posted to Archaeolog 11/19/2008. Available at: http://traumwerk.stanford.edu/archaeolog/2008/11/trashed_out_an_archaeological.html

Review of Muhammad's Grave. Leor Halevi. 2007. in American Anthropologist (110:3 388-389)

Beyond Territorial Sovereignty: Archaeology and the spiritual dimension of the Arab-Byzantine frontier" in Social Orders and Social Landscapes. eds. Laura Popova, Charles Hartley and Adam Smith. Cambridge Scholars Press. Pp. 168-180.

"Climate: Theories of" in Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. ed. Joseph Meri. London: Routledge.

"North Africa" in The Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology. ed. Charles E. Orser, Jr. pp. 395-398. London: Routledge.

"Islamic Archaeology", invited research synthesis for The Journal of Archaeological Research

research overview

Research Projects:

Islam Emplaced: The landscape of an emerging religious tradition
This monograph will be the culmination of an archaeological investigation that has ranged from the examination of urban settlement patterns, to desert castles, to discourses on territoriality that emerged in period following the Muslim conquests of the Near East. It is a study that seeks to provide a new approach to archaeological engagements with religion through the lens of landscape.

The Medieval Fayyum Conservation Project
This is the initial phase of a project that will begin to document the transformation of Egypt's Fayyum oasis during the medieval period. Our first field season will be devoted to the documentation and conservation of a 13th-19th century irrigation wall that runs for nearly ten kilometers through the southern end of the region.

research statement

My research is engaged in a variety of different projects that range from the strictly archaeological to more general questions concerning the social theory of materiality and spatiality. I am currently completing the monograph for a research project that investigated the early Islamic period landscapes of Greater Syria. The book will be titled: "Islam Emplaced: The landscape of an emerging religious tradition." 

Most recently (Summer 2010) I have served as field director for the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) under the overall direction of Dr. Susan Alcock. Within that framework I am developing an Islamic Period Petra Initiative that will bring much of the data that we will be collecting for the later periods of the site (post 7th c.) into a synthetic archaeological study of the region that does not follow rigid political temporalities but looks to expand forward and backwards what constitutes an Islamic history.

Another archaeological project, currently in development, will examine the transformations to the fertile Egyptian region of the Fayyum located about one hour south of Cairo. Here I am putting together a team of researches to examine a 13th century irrigation wall that was instrumental in the agricultural and political revitalization of this region under the Mamluk Sultanate. 

The broader theme of my work has been to understand the role of material culture in human societies. This has prompted me to form the Material Worlds working group at Brown that has brought together and interdisciplinary set of faculty members whose work focus on these issues. Supported by a grant from the Cogut Center for the Humanities we will continue to raise the profile of how things shape our lives through various campus events and developing new curricula. This has lead to my own particular interest in researching how Muslim thinkers understood the made world and what effects these discourses of the material had on the practical formations of the archaeological record. This has become most apparent in things such as the built environment and hence my research has concentrated on everything from ceramic scatters in fields, to walls to the cities of the Muslim world.

funded research

Cogut Center Working Group grant for "Material Worlds"