I have spent my career researching how art and architecture expose relations in and between minority societies. The field of art history is integral to discussions of social difference, as the difference constructed around minorities is always produced within, not outside, realms of representation. My work explores religious identity and difference, Jewish-Muslim-Christian relations, and representations of alterity in the art and culture of early modern Europe. I am fascinated by Renaissance notions of toleration not simply because they inform the history of socio-religious relations but also because they illuminate the cultural significance of difference, a powerful interpretive concept as influential today as in the past. 

My current book project, Materials of Islam in Premodern Europe, studies the material effects of Christian and Muslim encounter. I contend that the relationship between European Christians and Mediterranean Muslims can be tracked through the shifting nature of early modern materiality. Islam fashioned Europeans’ material experiences, while Muslim-Christian relations were fashioned from physical objects. 

Materials of Islam in Premodern Europe expands on the research I conducted for my previous books: The Jew in the Art of the Italian Renaissance (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) and The Jewish Ghetto and the Visual Imagination of Early Modern Venice (Cambridge University Press, 2017 & 2019). In those monographs, I explore representations of religious difference in the art and culture of early modern Italy. I study the relations and negotiations between Jewish cultural history and the visual culture of the Renaissance. For example, The Jewish Ghetto and the Visual Imagination of Early Modern Venice examines the ghetto as a paradox of urban space. The ghetto marginalized Jews to the periphery to denote their civic subordination; yet it was precisely this practice of peripheralization that put the ghetto on display for Christian and Jewish eyes. Venice’s oligarchic government differentiated land use to organize the city’s constituent neighborhoods, zoning the ghetto to the northernmost district at a far distance from the political and economic centers of the city. Pushed to the periphery to minimize their visual presence, Jews erected towering tenements that made that marginal community highly visible. The verticality of ghetto architecture deviated from conventions in Venetian urban planning to yield sites of visual disturbance that disrupted the well-ordered social fabric of Venice.