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Sara Kuehn

Nationality: German

Gender: female

Date Of Brith: 27/12/1966

Academic & Professional Qualifications:

Bachelor B.A. in Arts International Christian Uni. 1991
Master M.A. in Arts University of London 1998
Ph.D Ph.D in Philosophy University of Berlin 2009


Position(s) Held:

1 Kuwait National Museum, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah 1998 2008
2 Habilitation Project, University of Vienna since 2015  
3 Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University 2015  
4 NEC-Institute for Advanced Study, Bucharest, Romania Junion Fellow 2015  
5 Orient-Institut Beirut der Max Weber Stiftung (Research Fellow) 2012 2013
6 Research Grant, Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) 2013  
7 London Academy of Iranian Studies, London 2012 2013
8 Osterreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft (Austrian Research Foundation) 2011 2012
9 Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna, Austria 2009 2011


About the Author

Trained as an art historian (PhD in Islamic art and archaeology, Free University of Berlin, 2008) and working on religious symbolism for more than 20 years, Dr Sara Kuehn studies religion from a cross-cultural comparative perspective. With a dual background of Islamic and Chinese/Japanese art histories (BA in Chinese and Japanese Art and Archaeology, International Christian University, Tokyo, 1991, and MA in Islamic art and archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1998), combined with a museum career, she specializes in the artistic and cultural relationship between the Islamic world and Western Asia and has conducted extensive fieldwork in these regions. In so doing, she seeks to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a broad multidisciplinary setting. Her main research foci are religious visual culture in an interreligious perspective; cosmographies and imaginary journeys; angels and angelology; migration and cross-cultural dimensions of objects, ideas and images. Her recent book The Dragon in Medieval East Christian and Islamic Art (with a Foreword by Robert Hillenbrand, Brill: Leiden, Boston, 2011) won the 2013 World Prize for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She is presently writing her habilitation thesis on “Hybrid Creatures in Western Asia from 2500 BCE to 650 CE” at the Institute for the Study of Religions, University of Vienna.

Details of Books/Monographs

1 Monsters as Bearer of Life-Giving Powers? IGNCA 2016
2 The Dragon in Medieval East Christian and Islamic Art  Brill: Leiden, Boston 2011


Details of Articles

  • "Pilgrimage as Muslim Religious Commemoration: The Case of Ajvatovica in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Muslim Pilgrimage in Europe, eds. I. Flaskerud and R.J. Natvig, Ashgate: Ashgate Studies in Pilgrimage, ed. J. Eade (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "Symbolic Characteristics of the Practice of Spiritual Retreat (Khalwa) in the Teachings of Sayyid Yahya al-Shirwani al-Bakubi and His Spiritual Lineage," The Khalwatiyya Soufi Order L'Ordre soufi Khalwatiyya, Journal d'Histoire du Soufisme (JHS), ed. Zarcone, vol. 7 (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "Ganymede and the Eagle': Variations of an Airborne Theme in the Iranian World? Modes of Rendition of Spiritual Ascent in Persianate Tradition," The Visual World of Persianate Culture. ed. Y. Kadoi, Edinburhg: Edinburgh University Press (scheduled for publcation in 2016).
  • "The Interplay of the Angels and the Prophet Muhammad in the Earliest Images of the Prophet in Islamic Art," Comparative Medieval Angelology Volume, ed. J.A. Greelay, Turnout: Brepols (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "Bektashi Religious Visual Culture in the Western Balkans," Octa Orientalia 69 (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "The Eclipse Demons Rahu and Ketu in Islamic Astral Sciences," in Umbra: Demonology as a Semiotic System, eds. D. Antonov and O. Khristoforova, Issue 5, Noscow: Indrik (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "On Beauty in the 'illuminist Vision' of Suhrawardi Maqtul," Aesthetics of the Sublime: Religious Texts and Rhetorical Theory, eds. S. Dorpmuller, I. Weinrich, M. Stille and J. Scholz, Heidelberg: Springer (scheduled for publication in 2016; submitted 2013).
  • "Visions of the Universe in the Religious Symbol System of Third-Millennium B.C. Bactria-Margiana," Transactions of the Margiana Archaeological Expedition: In Memory of Professor Victor Sarianidi 6, Moscow (scheduled for publication in 2016).
  • "Twelver Shi'i Components in Contemporary Bektasi Visual Piety in the Western Balkans?: A Note on Bektasi Visual Culture," NEC Institute for Advanced Study Yearbook 2013-2014, ed. I. Vainovski-Mihai, Bucharest 2015, pp. 289-334.
  • "The Dargon in Medieval Islamic Astrology and Its Indian and Iranian Influences," Proceedings of the Indo-Mongol Colloquium, 01-04 February, 2012, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, 2015.
  • "Vestiges of the Ouroboros in Medieval Islamic Visual Tradition," Proceedings of the 9th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE), Wiesbaden: Harrassoqitz, 2016, pp. 169-82.
  • 12. "The Dragon Fighter: The Influence of Zoroastrian Ideas on Judaeo-Christian and Islamic Iconography," Zoroastrianism in the Levant, ARAM Periodical (ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies), vol. 26, 1 and 2, Leuven: Peeters 2014, pp. 65-101. 
  • "Ungeheuer als Träger lebensspendender Macht? Transreligiöse Migrationen einer alten Symbolik im Vorderen Orient (9-14. Jh.)," EOTHEN VI, 2014, pp. 168-88.
  • "Escaping the Jaws of Death': Some Visual Conceptualisations in Late Medieval Islamic and Eastern Christian Art," in Umbra: Demonology as a Semiotic System, eds. D. Antonov and O. Khristoforova, Issue 3, Moscow: Indrik, 2014, pp. 133-64.
  • "The Dragon in Transcultural Skies: Its Celestial Aspect in the Medieval Islamic World," Spirits in Transcultural Skies, Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context, eds. N. Gutschow and K. Weiler, Heidelberg: Springer, 2014, pp. 71-97.
  • "Reverberations of the Life and Work of the Seventeenth-Century Bosnian Shaykh and Poet Hasan Qa'imi," Transcendent Philosophy Journal 13, 2012, pp. 149-76.
  • "On the Role of the Ophidian and the Quadruped Dragon within the Iconography of the Mythological Scheme of the Oxus Civilisation," On the Track of Uncovering a Civilization. A Volume in Honor of the 80th Anniversary of Victor Sarianidi, Transactions of the Margiana Archarological Expedition, vol. 3, Moscow-St. Petersburg: Aletya, November 2009, pp. 43-67.
  • "Tilework on Funerary Monuments of the 12th to 14th Century in Konya Urgench (Gurganj)," Arts of Asia March-April 2007, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 1-18.
  • "Towards the Dragon and the Mythical Bird: Tracing Possible Antecedents for some Elements of Khitan Iconography," Arts of Asia September-October 2006, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 76-88.
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Monsters or Bearer of Life-Giving Powers?

This well-illustrated volume seeks to explain an enigmatic and paradoxical symbolism common to many of the world religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic – that of the cavernous maw of a great monster. Drawing on a broad array of comparative evidence, including examples from Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions, it delves on the cross-cultural points of contact that may have contributed to the spread of such zoomorphic hybrids from Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran to the Indian Subcontinent.
Straddling the boundaries between popular and textual traditions the gaping jaws of a great monster is a mythical paradigm of the bivalence of a deep-seated historic force: the yawning orifice of all-consuming death can as well symbolize the power of life or generative power. This dual force can also be reflected in an abbreviated conceptualization visualized on opposite sides of a common axis. The outcome of the symbolic synthesis, which axiomatically unifies such vast, inexorably linked, seemingly irresistible potent forces, thus may suggest different shades of meaning – daunting, and yet again singularly attracting, humbling and at the same time exalting.
This book should arouse keen interest among all those interested in the comparative perspective of religious, cultural and artistic history.