Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Turkish Prayer Rugs as Objects Possessing Agency: Portable Materials Linking the Material, Social, and Immaterial Worlds Through Motifs, Usages, and Mobility
Islamic prayer rugs have not been studied as frequently in scholarly research as compared to other Middle Eastern decorative carpets. Yet, for centuries, they have been traded by Muslims and non-Muslims across the world and some become collection/museum items in secular settings. Thus, prayer rugs are multifunctional and are more than merely an Islamic prayer implement. I conclude that prayer rugs hold agency and link various worlds due to their motifs, usages, and mobility. In terms of agency, I draw on materiality theory which highlights objects as not passive and that they possess a dialectic relationship with humans. I examine eighteenth and nineteenth century Turkish sajjada prayer rugs (prayer rugs intended for the use of one person while praying) from the Arthur D. Jenkins collection at The Textile Museum and the James F. Ballard collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the woven motifs, links are created between false dichotomies. Recurrent prayer rug motifs such as niche symbols, candles and lamps, floral imagery, and geometric patterns refer to Islamic ideologies. As a result, the profane, real, and material world is connected to the sacred, idealized, immaterial world. Connections between the human body, cardinal directions and idealized beliefs are further established during prayer usage. Even from mobility such as trade, these sacred objects bridge together false dichotomies, individuals and transform people. Therefore, the prayer rug and human relationship is dialectic not dichotomous. Depending on usage, these objects can likewise go in between religious or secular spheres. This is unlike other Middle Eastern decorative carpets and other rugs. By applying the concept of materiality and adding more awareness to prayer rugs, this research helps show that they influence the worlds they occupy as active agents.
60 pagesSupplemental file(s) description: Defense Results.
agency; Islamic prayer rugs; materiality; prayer rugs; Turkish prayer rugs
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis