My research focuses on the intersection of political power, religious ideology and visual and material culture in the medieval Islamic world. I am particularly interested in how medieval Islamic rulers legitimated their power through cultural production, holy war and diplomacy. My book in progress, tentatively entitled “Wolf King of Glorious Memory: Affiliation, Accommodation and Resistance in Ibn Mardanīsh’s al-Andalus,” centers on an enigmatic twelfth-century ruler who fought the Marrakech-based Almohad dynasty through alliance with his Christian neighbors and asserted his authority with reference to the Abbasid caliphate in the east. Generally, the book explores how Muslim rulers in the Western Mediterranean adapted and transformed ideologies and material symbols of power from the broader Islamic world in order to assert their authority. My sources, including chronicles, poetry and chancery documents, as well as coins, architecture, and portable objects, reveal both the interconnectedness of the Islamic world and the intimacy between the Christians and Muslims who competed for territory in the Western Mediterranean. My research has been supported by Fulbright, NEH, ACLS and Mellon Fellowships. I offer webinars through the Islamic Material Culture Webinar Initiative, along with colleagues in Germany, which bring together scholars and students from around the world. I have served as the secretary of the Historians of Islamic Art Association (2014-2017) and was a founding board member of the Spain North Africa Project.

Balbale’s Page

Selected Recent Publications

“Magical words: Arabic amulets in Christian Spain.” In Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World, edited by Suzanna Ivanic, Mary Laven and Andrew Morrall. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming.

“Bridging Seas of Sand and Water: The Berber Dynasties of the Islamic Far West.” In The Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Finbarr Barry Flood and Gülru Necipo˘glu. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 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, edited by Amira Bennison, 87-105. Oxford: Oxford University Press/Proceedings of the British Academy, 2014.

Editor, with Yuen-Gen Liang, Camilo Gomez-Rivas, and Andrew Devereux, Spanning the Strait: Studies in Unity in the Western Mediterranean. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

“Cacophony.” Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 5:2 (2013): 123-128.

Author, with Jerrilynn D. Dodds and María Rosa Menocal, The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, Paperback, 2009. Winner, Outler Prize of the American Society for Church History, 2010. A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2009.

Selected Courses

778 Islamic Art and Material Culture from Early Islam to the Ottoman Period

887 Courtly Culture in the Medieval Mediterranean

893 Al-Andalus

896 Court Culture Compared

921 The Material Culture of the Caliphate

938 “Ornament and Crime”: Decoration and Its Discourses from Late Antiquity to Today