January 28, 2017
Annual Business Meeting and Pot Luck Dinner

Talk by Thomas Cook

Rug scholarship and connoisseurship: What in it is worth taking seriously in these two slippery but related concepts?

Some pictures
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This talk applies standards of evaluation to oriental rug scholarship and connoisseurship. It seeks to identify which parts of rug scholarship have more or less merit, concentrating on issues of attribution and dating. It then contrasts rug scholarship with rug connoisseurship and suggests to listeners that they should be content with connoisseurship even though it implicitly prizes the reliability of knowledge over its validity. Throughout this discussion of Middle Eastern woven arts, comparisons are made with scholarship and connoisseurship as they are usually understood in Western visual arts.

Thomas D. Cook received a BA degree from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from Stanford. From 1968 until 2015 he was at Northwestern University where he was the Joan and Serepta Harrison Professor of Ethics and Justice and also a Professor in the Departments of Sociology, Psychology and Education and Social Policy and a Faculty Associate of the Institute of Policy Research. His academic speciality is descriptive epistemology, knowing how individuals and institutions construct knowledge. He mostly uses this knowledge in developing methods for evaluating social policies and programs. He now works in the DC office of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. He began collecting rugs in 1977 while a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and has stayed narrowly engaged with rugs in the sense that he, his wife and son collect weavings only from Fars province in Iran. He has served on the board of the Textile Museum and has written for Hali with Sumru Krody, for Gereh with Carol Bier, and for the Oriental Rug Review.

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