Fellow 2023/2024Pamela Karimi

Fellowship Term: 10/2023-07/2024

Pamela Karimi specializes in the study of modern and contemporary art, architecture, and visual culture of the Middle East. She received her PhD from MIT and is now a Professor of history of art and architecture at the University of Massachusetts. Her expertise lies primarily in the art, architecture, and visual culture of the modern and contemporary Middle East. She is the author of Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran: Interior Revolutions of the Modern Era (2013) and co-editor of a number of volumes, including The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East: From Napoleon to ISIS (2016). Her most recent book, , was published in 2022 by Stanford University Press. Her forthcoming book, titled Women, Art, Freedom: Artists and Street Politics in Iran, is set to be released by Leuven University Press later this year. Currently, Karimi is developing a book manuscript which explores the nexus between design and environmental issues in the Middle East. 

Her research has been supported by numerous awards, including subvention funds from the College Art Association and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts. She has also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others. In 2018, she was honored with the University of Massachusetts Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and more recently, she was named the Scholar of the Year by the Faculty Federation at her home institution.

 University profile page

In the spotlight: Pamela Karimi

The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East

Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practice

Women, Art, Freedom: Artists and Street Politics in Iran


Pamela Karimi

Survival by Design: Desert Architecture at the End of the World

Centuries of navigating the challenging desert environments of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) led to the evolution of unique societal adaptations and architectural innovations. However, colonial and pseudo-colonial powers frequently dismissed these clever and environmentally-friendly practices as insufficient. As the 20th century progressed, an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and modern environmental management technologies contributed to the gradual erosion of these sustainable practices. During the Oil Crisis and the rise of countercultural environmental movements, the desert-friendly architecture of MENA gained critical importance. This study explores the imaginative, architectural, and scientific proposals for self-sustained disaster shelters and lunar settlements, which drew inspiration from MENA's desert architecture. It contrasts the lavishly funded projects of US experts with the contributions of more marginalized figures, such as Iranian-American architect Nader Khalili. Khalili explored the potential for refugee settlements and lunar habitation through a decade-long study of Iran's self-sustaining adobe architecture. Through examining a variety of case studies, this project challenges the common perception that post-apocalyptic design solutions are exclusively the domain of white/Euro-American expertise.