Nancy Demerdash


Nancy Demerdash



Nancy Demerdash specializes in modern and contemporary art and architectural history of the Middle East and North Africa. Her dissertation, "Tunisia, 1940-1970: The Spatial Politics of Reconstruction, Decolonization, and Development," examines modernist architectural practices in Tunisia, as they emerged against the backdrop of postwar reconstruction, decolonization and a nascent national consciousness. With an emphasis on social housing typologies, debates on the vernacular, and discourses of functionalism and heritage in Tunisia, this project analyzes how modernism itself was constructed, deployed and spatially adapted in the region as a signifier of progress and control. In January 2016, a chapter of her dissertation was awarded the Rhonda A. Saad Prize for Best Paper in Modern and Contemporary Arab Art from the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, & Turkey (AMCA). Additionally, Nancy's work has received support from the Spiro Kostof Fellowship from the Society of Architectural Historians, the Forum Transregionale Studien and Europe in the Middle East (EUME) programs in Berlin, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Donald and Mary Hyde Fellowship at Princeton University, and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). 

Before beginning her 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 in 2009. She also holds an Honors B.A. in Art History and a certificate in Religious Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006). Having taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and within the Princeton-Mellon Initiative for Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, Nancy now teaches in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at DePaul University. 

Current Research

In addition to preparing her dissertation for publication, Nancy currently writes on the intersections of art and activism, particularly pertaining to issues of migration, diaspora(s), and artistic censorship in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Selected Publications

“Of ‘Gray Lists’ and Whitewash: The Aesthetics and Artistic Strategies of Complicity and Circumvention in the GCC,” (essay in special volume, 'Art and Cultural Production in the Gulf', edited by Mehran Kamrava and Zahra Babar, Journal of Arabian Studies, forthcoming winter 2016) 

“Structuring Dignity: Housing and Economic Development in Tunisia,” (forthcoming essay in volume, edited by Kivinc Kilinc and Mohammad Gharipour, Identity, Nation, and Beyond: Social Housing in Contemporary Middle East, Indiana University Press, 2016) 

“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. 

Orientalism,” Smarthistory (Open Courseware) at Khan Academy (April 2015). 

“Serving Harmony: The Arts de l’Islam at the Musée du Louvre,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2013): 226-230.

“Book Review of Charlotte Jelidi’s Fès: la fabrication d’une ville nouvelle (1912-1956) (Lyon: ENS Editions, 2012),” International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2013): 411-413.

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

Selected Talks

“Towards an Aesthetics of Border Resistance,” “Border Regimes: Confrontations, Configurations, Transpositions, Summer School” Walter Benjamin Kolleg, Graduate School of Humanities, Universität Bern, Switzerland, September 4-9, 2016 

“Habitat, Housing, and Development of the Évolué in Mid-20th-century Tunisia,” in “Aesthetics and the Bidonville” Colloquium, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, May 6-7, 2016  

“Integration, Exile, and Postmemory in the Franco-Maghrebi Graphic Novel,” in panel “Maghrebi Literature and the Re-Appropriation of the Euro-American Figure,” Middle East Studies Association Conference, Denver, CO, November 24, 2015

“Pavilions of Resistance: Art and Censorship in the Gulf,” at “Art and Cultural Production in the Gulf,” held at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Center for International and Regional Studies, August 30-31, 2015

“Gridding the Gourbiville: CIAM, Primitivism, and the New Nation’s Quest for Dignified Dwelling,” at “Before the Contemporary: Arts, Institutions, Revolutions,” Northwestern University, May 28-29, 2015

“The Onus of Reconstruction,” at the “Orient und Moderne” Conference, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany, May 8-9, 2014