Abigail Balbale

Research Fellow in Islamic Arts and Material Culture

Ph.D. History and Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
M.A. History, Harvard University
B.A. Humanities and Near Eastern languages and Civilizations, Yale University

I am a historian of the Islamic world with a particular interest in the ways in which material culture expresses political and religious ideals. I am fascinated by what happens along the edges of empires and in cosmopolitan settings, where cultural borrowings of many kinds transform the visual and intellectual landscapes. My dissertation examined a series of rulers in medieval Spain and North Africa who contested visions of righteous Islamic rule, and was based on archival and published sources, as well as architecture, silks, ceramics and coins. In addition to revising my dissertation for publication, I am also working on an article on Arabic inscriptions in non-Muslim contexts in twelfth- through fourteenth-century Spain. I am committed to research that combines interdisciplinary and trans-regional approaches, which is reflected in my work on the Executive Board of the Spain-North Africa Project, a new organization that promotes scholarship treating Iberia and North Africa as an interconnected region.

Selected Recent Publications:

  • The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture, co-authored with María Rosa Menocal and Jerrilynn D. Dodds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008
  • Introduction to the Spain-North Africa Project special issue of Medieval Encounters, “Unity and Disunity across the Straits of Gibraltar,” (co-author), forthcoming
  • "Jihād as a Means of Political Legitimation in Thirteenth-Century Sharq al-Andalus," in The Articulation of Power in Medieval Iberia and the Maghrib, ed. Amira Bennison and J.A.O.C. Brown. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming
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