Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Katherine K Chaddock


This dissertation investigates the development and function of the Institute of Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture in Amman, Jordan. A vertical case study using grounded theory methodology, the research attempts to create a rich and holistic understanding of the Institute. Specific areas of study include the factors involved in the founding of the Institute within the context of Arab and Jordanian higher education, the role of traditional Islamic philosophy in the function of the Institute, and the role of the anthropological concept of liminality in the clarification of students' values during the academic program.

The research included a three week initial study trip to Amman in May, 2011, followed by a four week visit in September of 2011. Data for the study came from thirty hours of interviews completed with over thirty individuals, a twenty item survey completed by sixty-five students, classroom observations, and analysis of an array of documents from the League of Arab States, the Jordanian Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Jordanian Accreditation Association, the World Islamic Science and Education University, and the Institute for Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture.

The study found that ITIAA exists despite the prevailing political and economic environment. The relentless push to replicate Western approaches in Arab-Muslim higher education has created a pervasive environment that resists traditional Islamic topics and forms of education. Such an environment has made the development of alternative institutions, such as ITIAA, very difficult. It was discovered that the founding of ITIAA entailed a unique combination of support from the Jordanian royal family and the international community through the rebuilding of the Minbar of Saladin, and profound levels of commitment from leadership, faculty, and students. In regard to the role of traditional Islamic philosophy, the study delineates how the combination of theological/philosophical commitments of founders, faculty, curriculum, and students combined to create a deep and pervasive role of traditional Islamic philosophy, evidenced in classroom, interviews, and documents. Student, faculty and staff interviews consistently reflected a vital commitment to Islamic understandings of education, art, and beauty.

Finally, liminality emerged as a vivid and persistent force in the students' assessment and commitment to value systems that sought to combine Arab-Muslim and Western values in a new, cohesive form. It was observed that the curriculum itself propelled students to deep and reflective experiences that were "betwixt and between," from which they would emerge with a clearer sense of self and other. Students were eager to discuss the products of their liminal experiences, typically artistic artifacts that combined value systems in unique and creative ways.

The study concludes by noting the vital importance of such institutions as ITIAA in providing the space and means for Arab-Muslims to understand their own culture, assess others, and form new versions of Arab-Muslim culture that are viable and productive in the current age. It is noted that transnational organizations, such as the League of Arab States, could help facilitate educational diversity by fostering the development of a second level of small, traditionally focused institutions which reinforce traditional values, provide liminal experiences, and facilitate creation of artifacts of liminality which reflect the ability to combine modern and traditional value systems.


© 2012, Mark William Meehan