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Philip Geisler


(Gerda Henkel Doctoral Fellow)

Art, Islam, and the Politics of Museum Display in the Early Twenty-First Century

Philip Geisler obtained a degree in journalism and media economics at the Medienakademie Berlin before studying art history, Islamic studies, and political science at the Freie Universität Berlin and at Harvard University. He has published on Ottoman imperial architecture and urban configurations in 16th-century Edirne, the connections of architecture and dance heritage, the history of branded architecture, and is currently working on a publication on utopian aesthetics, architecture, and urban form in the Gulf emirates. From 2013 until 2019, he worked at the Forum Transregionale Studien for Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, a collaborative research program of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut) and the Forum. He is a recipient of the 2015 Sydney N. Fisher Prize awarded by the Ottoman & Turkish Studies Association and from 2014 until 2016, he was a fellow of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes.

As a music dramaturg, he served as advisor to the managing director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and works for independent ensembles in jazz and contemporary trans-traditional music including groups that he co-founded and that are a part of the label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music, Munich). In 2020, he became an official international nominator of the Aga Khan Music Awards. In his ongoing journalistic activities, he publishes in the TRAFO Blog for Transregional Research, VAN music magazine, and hosts events at Berlin's international literature festival, the poetry festival versfest, the Leipzig Book Fair, and the Berliner Philharmonie.


Academic Memberships

Historians of Islamic Art Association
Middle East Studies Association
Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker

Dissertation: Art, Islam, and the Politics of Museum Display in the Early Twenty-First Century

Since the early 2000s, many Islamic art museums and individual galleries have reorganized their displays, extended their programs, or have been newly constructed. This project assesses these shifts in museum making through museums in Europe and North America that are distinct from the large universal museums. Focusing on different regional and national contexts, it examines collections, historical narratives, and the cross-cultural dimensions of art displays through their larger social and cultural meaning in the present moment. As museums newly address Islam in and for the early twenty-first century, the thesis argues that what seems as the stable entity of the prototypical 'Islamic art museum' is really a deeply local institution, in which various needs, from the local and regional to the transnational are actualized. Based on this socio-cultural reading of museums, it investigates how they are not only presenting historical narratives about Islam and culture, but how they are reflective of and co-perform essential paradigms, through which societies with a not predominantly Muslim population fashion themselves in the context of immigration, globalization, and postmodern struggles for coherent identity-driven stories.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Wendy M. K. Shaw

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Birgit Krawietz


Conference Papers

“Islamic Art as a Multicultural Mythology in Spain and Canada” (panel Islamic Art and the Politics of Museum Display, organized by Philip Geisler and Constance Jame)
Annual Meeting, Middle East Studies Association, Montreal, October 2021

"Display and Performativity: Theorizing the Agency of Islamic Art in the Museum“ 
Le musée en scène : regards critiques sur la muséographie 1969-2019, International Conference, Musée du Louvre & Ecole du Louvre, Paris, June 2021

“The Performativity of Objects: Reconstituting the Islamic Art Museum” (panel Archaeology and Museology)
Annual Meeting, Middle East Studies Association, New Orleans, November 2019

“Constructing the Ottoman Image: The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne and the History of Branded Architecture” (panel Branding the Middle East)
33rd German Oriental Studies Conference, Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft and Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, September 2017

“Architecture and Identity: Incorporating Hagia Sophia in the Ottoman Selimiye Mosque” (section Heritage and Imperial Architecture)
Captivating Edirne: Resources, Connectivities and Imaginative Attraction of a Turkish Border-City in Europe, International Workshop, Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies and Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, April 2014


Philip Geisler, “Empire, Iconic Practices, and the History of Architectural Branding in the Middle East”, in: Branding the Middle East, edited by Steffen Wippel, Berlin: De Gruyter, forthcoming 2021.

Philip Geisler, “Cambodian Court Dance After Genocide: Embodied Heritage and the Limits of Critique”, Essays of the Forum Transregionale Studien 6, 2020, pp. 4-61. https://perspectivia.net/rsc/viewer/pnet_derivate_00003937/6_Geisler_trafoEssay.pdf

Philip Geisler, “Challenging the Hagia Sophia: The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne as Ottoman Empire Branding”, in: The Heritage of Edirne in Ottoman and Turkish Times. Continuities, Disruptions and Reconnections, edited by Birgit Krawietz and Florian Riedler, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020, pp. 91–151. https://www.degruyter.com/view/title/547362?language=en


Non-Academic (selection)

Philip Geisler, “Nebeneinander, seitlich, unendlich: Wendy M. K. Shaw über ‘Islamische’ Kunst und Musik ohne Hierarchie”, VAN Magazin, 2020. https://www.van-outernational.com/shaw

Philip Geisler, “Dynamische Traditionen und Mimesis in der Kunstmusik”, Trickster Magazine, 2020. https://tricksterorchestra.de/magazine/essay/mimesis-und-kunstmusik/

Philip Geisler, “What is Art History when the Primary Sensory Organ is the Heart? A Conversation with Wendy M. K. Shaw”, TRAFO Blog for Transregional Research, 2020. https://trafo.hypotheses.org/22802

Philip Geisler, “Halting in a Space of Total Movement: Politics and Spatial Orders at Tegel Airport”, TRAFO Blog for Transregional Research, 2014. https://trafo.hypotheses.org/1214

Philip Geisler, “Ausstellung Welten der Muslime: Das Ende einer Trennung”, zenith, 2012. https://magazin.zenith.me/de/archiv/ausstellung-welten-der-muslime

Philip Geisler, “Osmanische Oldies: Werke von Dimitrie Cantemir in der Philharmonie”, zenith, 2011.