Ruba Kana'an

Dr. Ruba Kana’an is the Head of Education and Scholarly Programs at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. She is an educator who worked with university students, adult learners and young people in Canada and the UK. She is the Head of Education and Scholarly Programs at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto where she is responsible for school programs, scholarly programs, research programs, and publications.

Before joining the museum’s leadership team in 2011 she was the Noor Chair of Islamic Studies at York University, Toronto and, prior to that, Dean of the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies in Oxford (UK).  She has taught extensively at the graduate and undergraduate levels on various aspects of Islamic art and architecture. In 2007 she developed, wrote and taught Oxford University’s first on-line course in Islamic Art and Architecture.  She is a specialist on the urban histories of pre-modern Muslim societies, and the interface between art and law in Muslim contexts. She has a BSc. in architecture (Jordan), and an MPhil and a DPhil in Islamic art and architecture from Oxford University (UK).

Kana’an’s research projects include the study of institutions of architectural patronage and the manner in which pre-modern Muslim societies created civic space. Her work on architecture focused on historical mosques, focusing on their socio-legal development and artistic influences. Most recently, her interest in the confluence between art and law in Muslim contexts has led to the reassessment of the relationship between artist and patron in medieval Muslim societies.  

This research formed the basis of two articles published in the journals Levant (2001) and Muqarnas (2001). An important aspect of this survey concerning the uniquely decorated stucco mihrabs of Ibadhi mosques is published in Islamic Art in Oman (2008). she has carried out a study of the production and patronage of pre-Mongol metalwork in Iran and Central Asia, examining evidence from medieval compendia of contract law and artists’ signatures (Islamic Law and Society, 2009, Ars Orientalis 2012, and chapters in edited volumes in 2013, and 2015).  Most recently she was the editor-in chief of the Aga Khan Museum’s publications including Pattern and light (2014) where she was also the author of the collection’s artifact highlights.

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Ruba Kanaan