Lamia Balafrej


Ph.D. University of Aix-Marseille
Phone 310-825-0937
Office Dodd 247B



Lamia Balafrej’s teaching and research cover the arts of the medieval and early modern Islamic world. Her current book project explores and historicizes intersections of art, embodiment, technicity, and labor—both migrant and forced—in the medieval Mediterranean and South West Asia. Parts of this research have appeared in recent articles, including “Domestic Slavery, Skin Colour, and Image Dialectic in Thirteenth-Century Arabic Manuscripts” (2021) and “Automated Slaves, Ambivalent Images, and Nonefficient Machines in al-Jazari’s Compendium of the Mechanical Arts, 1206” (2022). The project has been supported by a 2023 Rome Prize in Medieval Studies and a 2023 Getty Scholar Grant.


Prof. Balafrej’s interest in the relation of body and instrument grew out of her first book, The Making of the Artist in Late Timurid Painting (Edinburgh University Press, 2019, also available on jstor), where she explored Persian painting’s labor-intensive intricacy in relation to Persianate notions of representation, medium, and authorship. Her essays and book chapters have considered a wide array of topics, encompassing the art of the poetic anthology in the Persianate world; the figural quality of the line in Persian drawing; the enmeshment of iconoclasm and iconophilia in the Islamic world; and the presence of Islamic art in medieval Pisa.


Hailing from Morocco, Prof. Balafrej first studied literature at the University Mohammed V (Rabat, Morocco), before entering the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris in 2005. She received her Ph.D. in art history from the University of Aix-Marseille in 2013. Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from various institutions, including the Forum Transregionale Studien (Berlin, Germany), the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).