Visiting Speakers

Abigail Balbale

Assistant Professor
Bard Graduate Center

Abigail Balbale's research focuses on the intersection of political power, religious ideology and visual and material culture in the medieval Islamic world. She is particularly interested in how medieval Islamic rulers legitimated their power through cultural production, holy war and diplomacy. Her 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. Her 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. Abigail's research has been supported by Fulbright, NEH, ACLS and Mellon Fellowships. She offers webinars through the Islamic Material Culture Webinar Initiative, along with colleagues in Germany, which bring together scholars and students from around the world. She has 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.

Isolina Ballesteros

Full Professor and Chair of Film Studies Program
Baruch College, City University of New York

Isolina Ballesteros is Professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature and chair of the Film Studies Program of Baruch College, CUNY; and at the Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures Program of the Graduate Center of CUNY. Her teaching focuses on Modern Peninsular Studies (19th and 20th century literature and film), comparative literature, immigration cinema, and Spanish and European cinema. She has published extensively about Spanish and Latin American women writers, the image of women in the post-Franco literature, the cultural memory of the Spanish Civil War, Spanish and European cinema, and European immigration cinema. She is the author of three books: Escritura femenina y discurso autobiográfico en la nueva novela española (1994), Cine (Ins)urgente: textos fílmicos y contextos culturales de la España postfranquista (2001), and Immigration Cinema in the New Europe (2015). She is currently working on a book titled Migration, Visual Art, and Activism.

Colin Barrett


Colin Barrett began publishing his short stories in the Dublin-based literature journal The Stinging Fly in 2009, and published his debut collection, Young Skins, in 2013. Growing up in County Mayo before moving to Dublin to complete an MA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin, the young writer has been widely praised for his literary debut. Barrett has been awarded the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2014 Guardian First Book Award. The stories contained within Young Skins tell of the lives of young men and women in the fictional town of Glanbeigh: a collection of drug dealers, bouncers, recovering addicts and others whose lives are shaded with loneliness and unfulfilled dreams. Writing for the Irish Indepedent, David Robbins described Barrett as 'a writer who understands people, place and the effects of porter on the human psyche.'

David Bell

Princeton University

David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Era of North Atlantic Revolutions in the department of History at Princeton. He is a historian of early modern France, whose particular interest is the political culture of the Old Regime and the French Revolution.

Eric Bianchi

Assistant Professor of Music
Fordham University

Eric Bianchi joined the faculty of the Art History and Music Department in 2011. He specializes in music theory from 1550-1800. His research explores the intellectual and scientific contexts of music during the Early Modern period, with particular focus on the musical writings of the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher. He was a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome in 2008-2009.

Sanford Biggers

Associate Professor of Visual Arts
Columbia University School of the Arts

Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) has received international acclaim for creating a diverse body of work in a variety of media revolving around themes of identity, spirituality, and race. In his series of six prints entitled The Floating World, Sanford explores imagery from American history that can also be found in his series of Quilt Drawings. Quilts were commonly used on the Underground Railroad to convey messages to slaves regarding safe houses and information pertinent to their travels. Through paper collage, Sanford recreates the feel of a handmade quilt and uses stencils, silkscreen, and spray-paint as a vehicle for his visual vocabulary. The Floating Worldmakes a vibrant connection between history and its influence on the present.

Adam Blazej

PhD candidate
Philosophy Department at Columbia University

Adam Blazej is a PhD candidate in the Philosophy Department at Columbia University. His dissertation is on Immanuel Kant's theory of hope, and he helps to coordinate a philosophy outreach program called Rethink.

Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein

President and CEO
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the public television program Healthy Minds and serves as host of the series. The program, which is broadcast nationwide, focuses on topics in psychiatry in order to educate the public, reduce stigma and offer a message of hope. Dr. Borenstein also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association and as an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.