Faculty Profile

Heghnar Watenpaugh
Professor of Art and Architectural History
Undergraduate Advisor
Art, Architecture and Urban History of the Middle East
Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
M.A., University of California, Los Angeles
B.A. (summa cum laude), University of California, Los Angeles
A.A., Beirut University College

Appointed 2005, Program in Art History

Faculty Associate, Graduate Program in Cultural Studies
Faculty Associate, Graduate Program in Women and Gender Studies
Faculty Associate, Graduate Program in Performance Studies
Faculty Associate, Program in Jewish Studies
Faculty Associate, Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies




Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She researches the visual cultures of the Middle East, including issues of architectural preservation, museums, and cultural heritage.  She previously taught at Rice University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was the Aga Khan Career Development Professor in architectural history. Her first book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Architecture in Aleppo, received the book Award for urban history from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her second book, The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice, published by Stanford University Press in 2019, is the only book to win awards from both the Society for Armenian Studies and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. The book also won the Gold Medal in World History from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and it was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (non-fiction). The Missing Pages was featured in The New York Times, and it was selected as one of the top books in the arts for 2019 by the art publication hyperallergic. Her scholarly publications have won Best Article Prizes from the Syrian Studies Association and from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the J. Paul Getty Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hays, Social Science Research Council, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the President of the University of California. Professor Watenpaugh has served on the boards of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Historians of Islamic Art Association, the Syrian Studies Association, and is currently on the board of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus.

She is a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.

In addition to scholarly essays, Heghnar Watenpaugh’s writing has appeared in Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times and was featured in a BBC podcast series about cultural heritage destroyed during the Syrian conflict. In recognition of this work she was selected as a Public Scholarship Faculty Fellow by the University of California Davis.




Islamic Artintroduction to the art, architecture and urbanism of societies where Muslims were dominant or where they formed significant minorities from the 7th through the 20th centuries.

The Islamic CityIslamic visual culture studied through the prism of architecture and urbanism. Comparative history of the development of Islamic cities, selected themes in urban studies.

Arts of the Islamic Book: the arts of the luxury book in the Islamic world, including critical study of the question of representation in Islam, the relationship of word and image, the discipline of calligraphy, ideas about beauty, representational strategies in Persianate painting, the development of art histories and of connoisseurship in Islamic societies.

Art, Architecture and Human Rights: study of human rights as they relate to art, architecture, and cultural heritage. It examines dimensions of culture as a human right, as well as the artistic expression of human rights.




Visual Theoryfoundation course in the graduate study of Art History. Study of the history and methods of art history. Study of the connections between the aesthetic theories that drive our field and the social history of the institutions that sustain it, including museums.

Contests over Art: Culture, Conflict, and the Art World: during conflict and war, art and architecture are often among the first casualties. Opponents destroy each other’s cultural heritage, or appropriate it. What is the relationship of art and conflict? How do societies reconstruct their heritage after traumatic episodes? How do art institutions face contests over art? What is the role of art historians?

Encountering Islamic Art: In History and on Exhibition: this seminar examines the historic development of the category “Islamic art and architecture,” the historiographic debates within it including current challenges, as well as the manner in which Islamic art has been exhibited in museums and the contemporary challenges.




“Islamic City, Colonial City, Refugee City: Urban Histories of Aleppo During the French Mandate,” in On Ordering Imperial Worlds: From Late Medieval Spain to the Contemporary Middle East, Edited by Susan Slyomovics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2023). 107-130.

The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019)

The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2004).  Winner of the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, 2006. www.brill.com/image-ottoman-city

Guest Editor, Special Issue: “Cultural Heritage and the Arab Spring,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture 5:2 (June 2016)

“Provenance: Genocide. The Transfer of Armenian Sacred Objects to Art Collections,” in Variant Scholarship: Ancient Texts in Modern Contexts, Edited by Neil Brodie, Morag M. Kersel and Josephine M. Rasmussen (Leiden: Sidestone Press, 2023). 219-234.

“Survivor Objects: Cultural Heritage in and out of the Middle East,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49:4 (2017). 752-756.

“Cultural Heritage and the Arab Spring: War over Culture, Culture of War, and Culture War,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture 5:2 (2016): 245-263.

“Resonance and Circulation: The Category ‘Islamic Art and Architecture’,” in The Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, eds. Gülru Necipoglu and Barry Flood (New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, Blackwell Companions to Art History series, 2017), Vol. II, 1223-1244.

“Preserving the Medieval City of Ani: Cultural Heritage Between Contest and Reconciliation,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 73:4 (December 2014): 528-55. Winner of the Ömer Lütfi Barkan Article Prize from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, 2015

“Architecture without Images,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Roundtable: Studying Visual Culture, edited by Zeynep Çelik, 45:3 (August 2013), 585-88

“The Harem as Biography: Domestic Architecture, Gender and Nostalgia in Modern Syria,” in Harem Histories: Lived Spaces and Envisioned Places, ed. Marilyn Booth (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010), 211-36

“An Uneasy Historiography: The Legacy of Ottoman Architecture in the Former Arab Provinces,” Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World, vol. 24 (2007), special issue: Historiography and Ideology: Architectural Heritage of the “Lands of Rum,” ed. Gülru Necipoglu and Sibel Bozdogan, 27-43

“Deviant Dervishes: Space, Gender and the Construction of Antinomian Piety in Ottoman Aleppo,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 37:4 (2005): 535-65. Winner of the Best Article Prize from the Syrian Studies Association, 2007

“Museums and the Construction of National History in Syria and Lebanon,” in The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspective, ed. Nadine Méouchy and Peter Sluglett (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004), 185-202

(530) 754-2612
Room 158, Everson Hall

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