Nancy Demerdash

Ph.D., 2015


Nancy Demerdash specializes in architectural and urban history of North Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her dissertation, "Tunisia, 1940–1970: The Spatial Politics of Reconstruction, Decolonization, and Development," now under revision into a book manuscript, explores the grafting of modernist architectural forms on Tunisia in the postwar period and the dramatic urban transformations that its cities underwent, just as the country transitioned from being a French colonial protectorate to an independent nation state. With an emphasis on social housing typologies, debates on the vernacular, and discourses of functionalism and heritage in Tunisia, her project analyzes how modernism itself was constructed, deployed and spatially adapted in the region as a signifier of progress and control. Nancy's scholarship has received support and been recognized by numerous academic institutions and organizations: Albion College (James E. and Dorothy R. Blanchard Faculty Fellowship, 2020), Great Lakes Colleges Association (Global Crossroads Grant, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2018), the Modern and Contemporary Arab Art from the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, & Turkey (Rhonda A. Saad Prize for Best Paper, 2016), Society of Architectural Historians (Spiro Kostof Fellowship, 2016), the Historians of Islamic Art Association (Oleg Grabar Travel Grant, 2016), the Forum Transregionale Studien and Europe in the Middle East (EUME) (2012, 2014), the National Endowment for the Humanities (2014, 2019), and Princeton University (Donald and Mary Hyde Fellowship,2013–2014).

Before taking on doctoral studies at Princeton University, Nancy earned a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (S.M.Arch.S.) from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her thesis on French colonial urban planning in Marrakesh won the Best Thesis Prize in the Department of Architecture (2009). She also holds an Honors B.A. in Art History, with Distinction, and a certificate in Religious Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006).

Having taught previously at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University and Wells College, Nancy now is an Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art & Art History at Albion College, where she enjoys teaching a range of courses on global modern and contemporary art, as well as courses in Islamic and African art. She also serves as an Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, a role she has been involved in since 2016.

Selected Publications

“The Fabric of Diaspora: Memory, Portraiture, and Empowerment in the Quilts of Bisa Butler,” forthcoming in a special issue on “African Textiles,” in the Textile Museum Journal, published by the George Washington University Museum, guest edited by Sarah Fee, vol. 48, 2021.

“Fashioning a Transnational Muslim Digital Diaspora: Mipsterz’ Construction of ‘Cool,’” forthcoming in Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies, published by the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University, Fall/Winter 2021.

“Archival Critique and Activism: Memory, Preservation, and Digital Visual Cultures in Post- Revolutionary Egyptian Heterotopias,” forthcoming in Journal of the African Literature Association, special issue on “Egypt in Focus: Creativity in Adversarial Contexts,” guest edited by Nevine El Nossery and Shereen Abouelnaga, 2020.

“Spiritual Migrations and the Question of Conversion in Contemporary Francophone Cinema,” forthcoming essay in volume Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology, edited by Kristian Petersen and published by Harvard University Press, Mizan Project, 2020. 

“Border Crossings at the Museum: Interpretation, Integration and Empathic Curatorial Strategies in an Era of Trauma and Displacement” in Jenny Norton-Wright ed., Curating Islamic Art Collections Worldwide: From Malacca to Manchester, Springer: Heritage Studies in the Muslim World Series, 2020.

“The Riad’s Resurgence: Questioning the Historical Legacy and Neocolonial Currency of the Maghrebi Courtyard House,” in Daniel Coslett ed., Neocolonialism and Built Heritage: Echoes of Empire in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, Routledge: Architext series, 2019.

“Constructing Dignity: Primitivist Discourses and the Spatial Economies of Development in Postcolonial Tunisia,” in Kivinç Kilinç and Mohammad Gharipour eds., Social Housing in the Middle East: Architecture, Urban Development, and Transformational Modernity, Indiana University Press, 2019.

“The Aesthetics of Tastemaking in (and out of) the Algerian Salon,” in Nadia von Maltzahn and Monique Bellan eds., The Art Salon in the Arab Region: Politics of Taste Making, Beirut: Orient Institut Beirut and the Max Weber Stiftung, 2018. [ISBN: 978-3-95650- 527-0]

"L’Habitation tunisienne de Victor Valensi (1928): Visions d’un architecte de culture juive sur le pluralisme des modernités vernaculaires en Tunisie ("Victor Valensi’s L’Habitation Tunisienne (1928): Jewish Perspectives on Pluralist Vernacular Modernities in Tunisia"),” in Perspective: actualité en histoire de l'art (Maghreb issue), vol.2 (2017), published by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Paris.

"Of ‘Gray Lists’ and Whitewash: The Aesthetics and Artistic Strategies of Censorship and
Circumvention in the GCC,” in special volume, Art and Cultural Production in the Gulf, edited by Mehran Kamrava and Zahra Babar, Journal of Arabian Studies, 7 (September 2017): 28-48. Reprinted in Suzi Mirgani ed., Art and Cultural Production in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Routledge, 2018. 

“Bordering Nowhere: Migration and the Politics of Placelessness in Contemporary Art of the Maghrebi Diaspora,” Journal of North African Studies, Special Issue on “Maghrebi Art, Cinema and Literature in the 21st Century,” 21:2 (March 2016): 258–272.

“Consuming Revolution: Ethics, Art, and Ambivalence in the Arab Spring,” New Middle Eastern Studies 2 (2012): 1–17.