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profile-picNancy Um

Professor and Department Chair

Office: Fine Arts 217 and 307
Phone: 607-777-5864
Specialization: Visual culture, built environment, urbanism, and material exchange around the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean littoral; Islamic art and architecture; Yemen; early modern commerce and cross-cultural exchange; domestic and commercial architecture; digital art history.

Nancy Um received her MA and PhD in Islamic art and architectural history from UCLA. She joined the art history faculty at Binghamton University in 2001.

While teaching broadly in the archaeology, arts, architecture and urbanism of the Middle East and South Asia, her research examines the visual culture and built environments of trading communities around the western Indian Ocean rim in the early modern period. Her first book, The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009), explores the question of how maritime trade saturated the visual and built world of 17th- and 18th-century Yemen, with a focus on the Red Sea port city of Mocha. In it, she examines the nature of Arab domestic and commercial architecture, critical issues in port city urbanism, and the politics of difference and spatial practices within city space. Her second book entitled, Shipped but Not Sold: Material Culture and the Social Protocols of Trade during Yemen’s Age of Coffee (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2017), explores the materially-oriented routines and social practices that wholesale merchants participated in as requisite rites of commercial initiation or to sustain their trading privileges in early modern Yemen.

She has conducted field and archival research in Turkey, Yemen, the Netherlands, and England. She is the recipient of a number of research fellowships, including those from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

She currently serves as reviews editor of The Art Bulletin.

Publications and Presentations

For Nancy Um's most recent publications and presentations, visit 

Dissertations Supervised

Recently completed PhDs

Recent courses taught

Undergraduate courses

Introduction to Art History
Culture, Dwellings, Design
Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Arts
Gilded Pages: Islamic Book Arts
Cairo: Islamic Architecture and the City
Theory and Methods (seminar)

Graduate courses

The Sultan's Palace
The Art of the Gift
Art in the Age of Discoveries, 1500-1800

Last Updated: 8/16/18