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.