The Western perception of the harem, or women’s quarters, and assumptions about the residents and their lifestyle remains a persistent Orientalist fantasy. Professor Nielson–the Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow–will share her research regarding how, even in those cultures with seemingly inflexible rules regarding gender segregation, musicians had the unique ability to negotiate both physical and social boundaries surrounding the harem. Through a comparison of different cultural contexts, she will discuss historical uses for harem musicians as well as their frequent appearance in Orientalist representations of the harem.
Lisa Nielson has an interdisciplinary doctorate in historical musicology and gender studies from the University of Maine. Her research focuses on identity, gender and musical culture in the early and medieval Islamicate courts. Nielson is the Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow at Case Western Reserve University and teaches classes on the courtesan, world slavery, the harem, and most recently, a seminar focused on the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
Click HERE for an interview with Lisa Nielson.