Nancy Um is professor of art history and associate dean for faculty development and inclusion at Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at Binghamton University.
She received her MA and PhD in art history from UCLA in 2001. Her research explores the Islamic world from the perspective of the coast, with a focus on material, visual, and built culture on the Arabian Peninsula and around the rims of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Her first book The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (University of Washington Press, 2009) relies upon a cross-section of visual, architectural, and textual sources to present the early modern coastal city of Mocha as a space that was nested within wider world networks, structured to communicate with far-flung ports and cities across a vast matrix of exchange. Her second book, Shipped but not Sold: Material Culture and the Social Protocols of Trade during Yemen’s Age of Coffee (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), explores the material practices and informal social protocols that undergirded the overseas trade in 18th C Yemen. She has received research fellowships from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies. From 2015-2018, she served as the Reviews Editor for The Art Bulletin.
Currently, she is engaged in a study of porcelain around the Red Sea in the early 18th C, research on 17th C images of the port of Mocha, and an analysis of the past sixty years of dissertations in art history in North America. She is the principal investigator and organizer of the art history fellowship program, Indian Ocean Exchanges, funded by the Getty Foundation.