profile-picBarbara Abou-El-Haj

Associate Professor Emeritus
(only working with current students, not accepting new applications) 

Barbara Abou-El-Haj recently retired from the Department of Art History after nearly thirty years of service to the University in which an entire generation of students passed through her lectures and seminars and in which her teaching and research added immeasurably to the national and international visibility of the program.

Professor Abou-El-Haj came to Binghamton from UCLA, where she completed her doctorate working with the renowned historian of medieval and modern art, Karl Werckmeister. The dissertation she wrote under Werckmeister’s supervision became her 1994 book, The Medieval Cult of Saints: Formations and Transformations, which exposed the fierce competition between cults that characterized the political struggle to preserve property and privilege, especially in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

There were also path-breaking articles on Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, Santiago de Compostela, and Reims and its cathedral that appeared in leading publications such as Art History, The Art Bulletin, and Gesta and extended her examination of feudal conflicts, art production, building programs and the suppression of social dissent.

These writings decisively shifted the field of medieval art history away from its long established comfort zone of ritual, liturgy and the sumptuous expression of spirituality. The summation of her radical revisionist perspective will be her book, Lordship and Commune: A Comparative Study of Building in Reims and Amiens, long in preparation and currently nearing completion.

Exacting in its reading of the historiography, scrupulous in its use of primary sources, and trenchantly committed in its analyses, Barbara’s work keeps alive a tradition of the social history of art in the United States that traces its origins back to the 1930s but burst into life again in the 1970s when Barbara was a doctoral student grappling with the challenges of graduate study and the care of her two daughters, Marriam and Sarra.

Active as she was in CEMERS as well as the Fernand Braudel Center, Barbara’s departure from Binghamton leaves a big hole in the heart of the department and in the global reach of our program. We wish her a happy, healthy and no doubt hard-working retirement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where she has recently moved with her husband, Rifa’at Abou-El-Haj.



  • The Medieval Cult of Saints: Formations and Transformations. Cambridge University Press, 1994
    Paper edition, Cambridge University Press, 1997
  • Lordship and Commune: A Comparative Study of Building in Reims and Amiens. Book manuscript in preparation


  • “Dissent: Satan, Job and Gregory IX,” under consideration for a collection on Reims north transept (Ashgate, AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Science, Technology and Art).
  • "Producing the Route of Saint James," Mediaevalia, forthcoming.
  • “The Structure of Meaning. Architectural Representation in the Later Middle Ages,” Studies in Iconography 25 (2004), pp. 129-171. [.pdf]
  • "Santiago de Compostela in the Time of Diego Gelmírez," Gesta, XXXVI 1/2 (1997), 165-79. [.pdf]
  • "Program and Power in the Glass of Reims, Radical Art History." An International Anthology, ed. Wolfgang Kersten, Zurich, 1997, pp. 22-33, 226-233. [.pdf]
  • "Saint Cuthbert.  The Post-Conquest Appropriation of an Anglo-Saxon Cult," Holy Men and Holy Women: Old English Prose Saints' Lives and Their Contexts, ed. Paul E. Szarmach, Albany, 1996, pp. 177-206.
  • "Artistic Integration Inside the Cathedrals, Social Consensus Outside?," Artistic Integration in Early Gothic Churches. ed. K. Brush, P. Draper, V. Raguin, University of  Toronto Press, 1995, pp. 214-35. [.pdf]
  • "Building and Decorating at Reims and Amiens,"  Europäische Skulptur im 12./13. Jahrhundert, ed. H. Beck and K. Hengevoss-Dürkop, 2 vols., Frankfurt am Main, 1994, vol. 1, pp. 763-76, and vol. 2, pp. 508-519. [.pdf]
  • "The Audiences for the Medieval Cult of Saints," Gesta, XXX (1991), pp. 3-15. [.pdf]
  • "Languages and Models for Cultural Exchange," Culture, Globalization, and the World-System (Current Debates in Art History 3), ed. Anthony King, Art and Art History, SUNY Binghamton and London, 1991, pp. 139-44. [.pdf]
  • "Ritual, Image and Subordination in Thirteenth-century Reims," World Art: Themes of Unity in Diversity, ed., Irving Lavin (Acts of the XXVI International Congress of the History of Art), University Park, Penn, 1989, vol. III, pp. 653-64. [.pdf]
  • "The Urban Setting for Late Medieval Church Building: Reims and its Cathedral between 1210 and 1240," Art History 11 (1988), pp. 17-41. (Review - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) [.pdf]
  • "Feudal Conflicts and the Image of Power in the Life of Saint Amand," Kritische Berichte 13 (1985), pp. 5-30. [.pdf]
  • "Bury St Edmunds Abbey between 1070 and 1124: a History of Property, Privilege and Monastic Art Production," Art History 6 (1983), pp. 1-29. (Review - C.M. Kauffmann, "English Romanesque Book Illumination: Changes in the Field 1974-1984) [.pdf]
  • "Consecration and Investiture in the Life of Saint Amand," Art Bulletin 61 (1979), pp. 342-58. [.pdf]



  • 2003 Fall    Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
  • 1999-2000    Paul Mellon Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 1995 Summer    National Endowment for the Humanities Stipend and Travel Grant
  • 1994 Winter     UCLA Arts Council Chair (declined)
  • 1991-1992     National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 1987 Fall     Ailsa Mellon Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
  • 1970    Kress Foundation Summer Research Travel Grant
  • 1967    Kress Foundation Summer Research Travel Grant


  • 2013-2014    Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
  • 1988 Summer    Binghamton Fellowship and Summer Grant, $4,000.
  • 1967-71     Chancellor's Teaching Fellow, UCLA
  • 1966    UCLA Art Council Graduate Grant for Summer Research


Senior Tutorials and Honors

  • Amanda Grannis: “Convivencia: History, Myth, and Modern Memory,” 2012
  • Maureen Larimore: “Saint Geneviève of Paris,” 2012
  • Moira Kim Penza: Thomas Becket in Medieval and Modern Literature,” Honors Thesis, English, 2005
  • Erin Martin: “From Villa to Fortress: The Getty Humanities Center” Honors Thesis, 2001-2002
  • Stephanie Groothuis: “Franz Marc. Representations 1900-1920"
  • Gail Hoenig: “Fragonard -- A Critical Historiography,” Tutorial, Spring 1994
  • Laura Hansen: “The Production History of American Glass, Honors,” 1993-94
  • Danielle Nyarady: “Canterbury Cathedral and the Cult of Thomas Becket,” Tutorial, Spring 1994
  • J. Terry: “The Counter-Reformation Project for St. Peter's, Rome.”
  • Jill Taylor: “Political Representation, Economic Crisis, and Artistic Transformations in the Columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius”
  • Jenny Kalina:  ”The Nineteenth-Century Project to Restore Medieval Churches and the Catholic Hierarchy in Post-Revolutionary France.”
  • Nadia Abdullah: “The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Medieval and Contemporary Ideology.”


  • Heather Allen: “The Representation of Textiles on Medieval Tomb Effigies”
  • Maggie Carlise:  “Battle Abbey Then and Now,” 2004
  • Christine Dwyer: “The Cult of Saint Edward the Confessor: An Affirmation of the Norman Right to Rule England” 1999
  • Tara Winner:  “Spring Forest Cemetery, Binghamton, N.Y.: A Local Example of the Rural Cemetery Movement “ 1999
  • Mae Benson: “The Illustrated Life of Ste Radegund: For Love of the World,” 1998
  • Devon Murphy:  “Stourhead: Disparate Emblems in an Eighteenth-Century Landscape Garden,” 1997
  • Ilana Abend-David: “Politics and Archaeology in Israel: Yigael Yadin’s Excavations at Masada,” 1995
  • Antoinette Aleccia: “The Shrine of Thomas Becket, Canterbury Cathedral,” 1990
  • Donna Dajnowski: “Holy Trinity Dormition Chapel, Jordanville, New York,” 1988

Doctoral Students

  • Laurel Braun: “Women’s Patronage in Medieval Iberia”
  • Aynur DeRouen, “Urban Spaces, 19th-century Istanbul”
  • Melissa Fitzmaurice: “Late Antique and Early Christian Shrines”
  • Kenneth Havenstein, "Choreographing the City. Politics, Pedagogy, and musicality in Medieval Siena." Ph.D. 2009
  • Saygin Salgirli, “From Thirteenth-Century Toulouse to Fifteenth-Century Serres: A Comparative Study of Dissent, Authority, Architecture and Space” PhD 2009
  • Sharon C. Smith: “Planned Grandeur:  A Commensurate Study of Urban Expansion in Early Modern Italy and Mamluk Egypt,” 2009 (co-supervisor)
  • Rosemary Ludwick, “Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine: The Cloister’s Panel of the Metropolitan Museum of Art” PhD 2003
  • Joseph Bertha: “The Illustration of the Akathist Hymn at the Ferapontov Monastery,” PhD 2002

Undergraduate Courses

  • Global Visions
  • Late Roman Art and Politics
  • The Golden Arts of Kings/ Early Medieval Art
  • The Carolingians. Fantasies of Rome
  • Monastery and Cathedral Towns in the Later Middle Ages
  • Medieval Cults of Saints
  • Europe of the Capitals
  • Opulence and Excess. Building in the Middle Ages
  • Junior Seminar/ Historiography

Graduate Seminars

  • Graduate Methods and Theory
  • Medieval Pro Seminar
  • Inventing the Middle Ages: nation-state, political ideology, cultural capital
  • The Bayeux Tapestry/ Partisan Records of the Norman Conquest of England
  • Medieval Historiographies
  • Saints, Shrines and Spectacle. Aspects of Medieval Cults of Saints
  • Vézelay and Santiago. Pilgrimage and Rebellion
  • Abbey and Cathedral Towns in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
  • Reims and Amiens. Lordship and Commune
  • Reims, the Coronation Cathedral
  • Frontier Cultures / Cultures of Exchange / Medieval Spain
  • Medieval Shrines/ Modern Inventions
  • Medieval Icons

Last Updated: 1/6/15