Color photograph of the head and shoulders of a light skinned woman wearing a red shirt and sitting in front on a plant and two walls, one slanted and the other patterned

Lamia Balafrej

Donald and Maria Cox/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities Rome Prize
5 settembre 2022–6 febbraio 2023
Associate Professor, Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles
Titolo del progetto
Corporeal Instruments: Art, Technology, and Slavery in the Medieval Mediterranean
Descrizione del progetto

My research project explores the parallel and intersected histories of art, embodiment, slavery, and technology in the medieval Mediterranean, using a wide array of material, visual, and textual documents. The central and late Middle Ages, I argue, were marked by the diffusion of a notion of the corporeal instrument, used to conceptualize the labor of slaves and craftsmen, and creating a discursive slippage between slave and machine. This was particularly true in frontier societies and zones of cultural encounter around the medieval Mediterranean, regions that witnessed the concomitance of slave trade, technological innovation, and artistic efflorescence. In Rome I will focus my research on Sicily and Southern Italy, following three lines of inquiry: the use of slaves and freedmen in the production of art and architecture; the visual representation of slaves as “corporeal instruments” on portable objects and architectural decoration; and the relation between slavery and technology in courtly and rural contexts.