Dr. Hannelies Koloska has won a €1.5 million Euro ERC Starting Grant for her project VISIONIS: Visuality in the Qur'an and Early Islam
VISIONIS sets out to write a cultural history of vision in Early Islam. It aims to generate a paradigm shift in the understanding of visuality in the transitional period between Late Antiquity and Early Islam. The project argues that the Qur’an is a key locus for our knowledge of the scope of visual strands in the epistemic space of Late Antiquity and the ways in which these visual strands were adapted and transformed by the emerging new religious community of Muslims. It also assumes that Early Islamic exegetical, theological, legal, literary, and historiographic texts and Early Islamic artistic production attest to the heretofore unstudied adjustment, conceptualization, and calibration of the various Qur’anic visual elements in combination with local-temporal trends. The project challenges the text-oriented research on the Qur’an that has prevented scholars from perceiving the work’s entanglement with the visual cultures of Late Antiquity. It also aims to rectify the comparative research of Islamic artwork and Islamic legal statements that resulted in a lack of comprehensive research into the Qur’an and Early Islamic texts as sources for the inquiry of Islamic visual concepts and images. The project will thus improve our understanding of the cultural dynamics of Late Antiquity and Early Islam, will raise awareness of the specificities of Muslim discourses on seeing, enabling an assessment of their historical anchoring, and challenge prevailing misconceptions of Islamic visual cultures.