Professor Lawrie Balfour

PhD Princeton
John G. Winant Visiting Professor of American Government

Academic subject(s):


Lawrie Balfour (James Hart Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia) is a political theorist who studies race, gender, democracy, and literature with a focus on African American political thought. She is especially interested in investigating the relationship between the legacies of slavery and democratic possibilities in the US. The author of three books — The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy (Cornell), Democracy’s Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W. E. B. Du Bois (Oxford), and Toni Morrison: Imagining Freedom (Oxford) — she is currently writing a book about reparations. Both the reparations project and Balfour’s recent work on Toni Morrison explore Black feminist traditions as a critical resource for understanding and challenging racial injustice.

Balfour was a 202021 Guggenheim Fellow and member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. She has held fellowships from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A recipient of multiple teaching awards, she was Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Associate Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University in 20082009; a visiting faculty member at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in May 2012; and a member of the faculty of the Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory in Bologna in 2017

From 20172021, Balfour served as the Editor of Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy. She also serves or has served on the editorial boards of the American Political Science Review, Political Research Quarterly, Politics, Groups, and Identities, and the Journal of Politics. Balfour was Director of Fellowships at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies from 20112013 and Interim Chair of Politics from January 2014-January 2015. She has been a core faculty member of UVA’s Department of American Studies since 2016.