AboutI am the author of Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016), which was awarded the University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies and the best book award by the Association for Women in Slavic Studies, and the translator of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016), and The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Central European University Press, 2015). My articles have received awards ranging from the International Society for Intellectual History’s Charles Schmitt Prize to the Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages Association’s Florence Howe Award for Feminist Scholarship. From 2018-2023, I am PI for the ERC-funded project, “Global Literary Theory: Caucasus Literatures Compared.” I have taught at Yale-NUS College, the University of Bristol, and am currently Professor, Islamic World and Comparative Literatures, at the University of Birmingham.
EducationI completed my undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley in Comparative Literature and Slavic Studies (with a focus on Dostoevsky and Russian literature), before moving to Tbilisi, Georgia, where I learned Georgian (and began learning Persian) and conducted the research that was to become my first book. After two years of residence in Tbilisi, I entered the PhD program at Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and the Department for Middle East, South Asian, & African Studies, where I completed a dissertation on Persian prison poetry, which is currently a manuscript entitled The Persian Genre of Incarceration: Prisons and the Literary Imagination.
Work Shared in CORE
- “The Persianate Cosmology of Historical Inquiry in the Caucasus: ʿAbbās Qulī Āghā Bākīkhānūf’s Cosmological Cosmopolitanism,” Comparative Literature (2019)
- “Translation as Alienation: Sufi Hermeneutics and Literary Modernism in Bijan Elahi’s Translations,” forthcoming in Modernism/Modernity (2021)
- “Justice Deferred: Legal Duplicity and the Scapegoat Mentality in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Jim Crow America,” Law & Literature (2019)
- “Wearing the Belt of Oppression: Khāqānī’s Christian Qaṣīda and the Prison Poetry of Medieval Shirvān,” Journal of Persianate Studies (2016)
- “Finding Bazorkin: A Journey from Anthropology to Literature,” Anthropology and Humanism (2016)
- “The Critique of Religion as Political Critique: Mīrzā Fatḥ ʿAlī Ākhūndzāda’s Pre-Islamic Xenology,” Intellectual History Review (Awarded the International Society for Intellectual History’s Charles Schmitt Prize)
- “Is the ‘Hate’ in Hate Speech the ‘Hate’ in Hate Crime? Waldron and Dworkin on Political Legitimacy,” Jurisprudence (2019)
- Literature as a Tribunal: The Modern Iranian Prose of Incarceration
- “The Aesthetic Terrain of Settler Colonialism: Katherine Mansfield and Anton Chekhov’s Natives” (2018)
- Democracy and the Vernacular Imagination in Vico’s Plebian Philology
- “Laws, Exceptions, Norms: Kierkegaard, Schmitt, and Benjamin on the Exception,” Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Politics, Philosophy, Critical Theory, Culture, and the Arts 162 (2013): 77–96.
- “Topographies of Anticolonialism: The Ecopoetical Sublime in the Caucasus from Tolstoy to Mamakaev,” Comparative Literature Studies 50.1 (2013): 87-107.
- “Engendering Critique: Postnational Feminism in Postcolonial Syria,” Women Studies Quarterly 42.3/4 (2014): 209-229.
- “The Poetics from Athens to al-Andalus: Ibn Rushd’s Grounds for Comparison,” Modern Philology 112 (2014): 1-24.
- “Antiquarianism as Genealogy: Arnaldo Momigliano’s Method,” History & Theory 53(2): 212-233.
- “The Much-Maligned Panegyric: Toward a Political Poetics of Premodern Literary Form,” Comparative Literature Studies 52(2): 254-288.
- “Inimitability versus Translatability: The Structure of Literary Meaning in Arabo-Persian Poetics,” The Translator 19(1): 81-104.
- “Hijab as Commodity Form: Veiling, Unveiling, and Misveiling in Contemporary Iran,” Feminist Theory
- “Reading Ruins Against the Grain: Istanbul, Derbent, Postcoloniality,” Culture, Theory, & Critique (2012)
- “Ijtihād against Madhhab: Legal Hybridity and the Meanings of Modernity in Early Modern Daghestan,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (2015)
- “Telling the Story of Literature from Inside Out: The Methods and Tools of Non-European Poetics,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 38(1): 170-180.
- “Punishing Violent Thoughts: Islamic Dissent and Thoreauvian Disobedience in post-9/11 America”
- “Memorializing Akhundzadeh: Contradictory Cosmopolitanism and Post-Soviet Narcissism in Old Tbilisi” (Interventions International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 2018)
- Hard Translation: Persian Poetry and Post-National Literary Form
Course material or learning objects
ProjectsGlobal Literary Theory: Caucasus Literatures Compared
2018-2023 (on Twitter @balagha2)
* European Research Council, Starting Grant (€1,498,982) The Obligation to Migrate: Forced Migration and Muslim Memory in the Caucasus
* Research Grant, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation
* Yale-NUS Internal Grant
* Short-Term Fellowship, Jordan Center, New York University Digitising Daghestan’s Manuscript Heritage: Manuscripts from the Library of al-Ghumūqī
(2016-present) Funding received:
* Melvin Seiden Award & Major Project Grant, British Library
, Endangered Archives Programme