The (Epistemological) Warp and Weft of Persian Rugs: How Knowledge is Produced in Western Art History

Sophia Sacal

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How do we know what we know about Persian rugs? This inquiry serves as a departing point for this presentation, during which Sophia Sacal will delve deep into the processes whereby knowledge is produced through and from a Western perspective. She will invite listeners to question our modern understanding of Persian rugs by demonstrating how it is rooted in what decolonial theorist Ambar Quijano calls “the coloniality of power and knowledge”. A revision of art historical sources, such as travelers’ journals and connoisseurs’ catalogs, will reveal how the Persian rugs’ epistemological warp and weft (or the way in which we know what we know) has not been articulated from within, but rather from the outside — that is, from the West. Sacal will linger on the influence of colonialism on Orientalist writings and its effects on our understanding of Persian rugs. She will furthermore propose a decolonization of the knowledge production processes regarding these objects. Her proposal seeks to enrich the research conducted within the discipline of Art History through an intersectional and transcultural approach, which allows for a more complex understanding of Persian rugs since it takes into consideration their ethical, aesthetical, political, social, cultural and even ecological dimensions.

Sophia Sacal (Mexico City, 1999) holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from the Universidad Iberoamericana. She has studied abroad in Florence, Italy as part of an exchange program with New York University and in Madrid, Spain, where she received a Diploma in Cultural Management from the Universidad Complutense. Her research has been focused on Material Culture Studies, focusing on the intersection with Identity and Gender Studies. She has published several articles in both Mexican and international magazines, and has also spoken in multiple symposia, such as the SUNY New Paltz Undergraduate Art History Symposium (2022) and the Universidad Iberoamericana Art History Symposium (2021, 2022, 2023). Sacal co-founded and directed an independent experimental space for contemporary art called “el recinto” from 2021-2023, organizing 8 exhibitions and public programs with the aim of highlighting Mexico City’s emergent art scene. She currently works at Christie’s, occasionally curating shows as a freelancer.

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