Materiality and Preservation in Islamic Contexts is an interdisciplinary research project, launched in January 2015, to investigate and understand the ways in which heritage is constructed and preserved in Qatar, and how this fits with Islamic values in the country. The research is a two-year UCL Qatar project in conjunction with Texas A&M University at Qatar and the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and it is supported by the Qatar National Research Fund (NPRP 7-551-6-018). The team of researchers is led by Dr Jose Carvajal Lopez, Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology at UCL Qatar. Other researchers taking part in the project are Dr Stavroula Golfomitsou (UCL Qatar), Dr Trinidad Rico (Texas A&M University at Qatar) and Dr Remah Gharib (QFIS).
Debates about the religious context
There is a void in debates about the religious context of preservation principles, particularly when it comes to Islamic heritage and values which are so widespread and overtly acknowledged. The physical and rhetorical construction and destruction of cultural heritage in the context of Islam has not been discussed, and the compatibility of Western preservation tenets and methods and the beliefs and practices of this religion are in a state of presumed harmony. Therefore, this research project aims to study practices of valuation and preservation of material culture in the Islamic world, as they are observed to take place in museum conservation, architectural preservation and restoration and archaeological site preservation management.
It is with the acknowledgement of this historical and ideological baggage that the present research team proposes to investigate more closely the ways in which Islamic values are mobilised today in the practices of preservation in anthropological, archaeological, and museum contexts in Qatar. The researchers of the team address how heritage is created, instilled with values and tagged for preservation through the study of praxis in research and disciplinary standards. This research project situates Qatar and the GCC States within a broader discourse and debate of non-Western heritage understandings of materiality, as they are revealed in the practices of preservation and management in the region.