Lawrie Balfour headshot

Katharine L. Balfour

Unit: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Department of Politics
Office location and address
S395 Gibson Hall
1540 Jefferson Park Ave
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Princeton University: Ph.D., Politics

Lawrie Balfour is the author of Democracy’s Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W. E. B. Du Bois (Oxford University Press) and The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy (Cornell University Press).

Her articles on race, gender, and democracy have appeared in Political Theory, Perspectives on Politics, American Political Science Review, Hypatia, The Du Bois Review, and other journals and edited volumes. She is working on two book manuscripts: one on reparations for slavery and Jim Crow and another on Toni Morrison and the idea of freedom.

Balfour 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 2008-2009; 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.

In 2017, she became the Editor of Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy. She also serves on the boards of Political Research Quarterly and Politics, Groups, and Identities and was a member of the Journal of Politics editorial board from 2005-07 and 2009-11. Balfour was Director of Fellowships at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies from 2011-2013 and Interim Chair of Politics from January 2014-January 2015.

Imagining Freedom: Toni Morrison and the Work of Words
Source: Institute for Advanced Study
August 25, 2020 – June 30, 2021
AS-POLI Editorship for Katharine (Lawrie) Balfour with SAGE Publishing for "Political Theory" Journal
Source: SAGE Publications, Inc.
January 01, 2017 – December 31, 2020
PLPT 3200: African-American Political Thought
Credits: 3
This course examines key figures and central concepts in African American political thought from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Issues addressed include the relationship between slavery and American democracy, separation vs. integration, and the promise and limitations of formal equality. Prerequisite: one course in PLPT or instructor permission.
PLPT 4060: Politics & Literature
Credits: 3
This course explores the relationship of literary expression to political life and theory. What kinds of political insight are made possible by different kinds of writing? How do authors' generic choices address and reimagine relations of power and powerlessness? Authors may include Sophocles, Shakespeare, Woolf, Baldwin, and Soyinka. Prerequisites: One PLPT course or Instructor Permission.
PLPT 4200: Feminist Political Theory
Credits: 3
Studies modern and contemporary feminist theories of political life. Prerequisite:  One previous course in political theory or instructor permission.
PLAP 4330: Refoundings in American Politics
Credits: 3
This course examines the major reform movements in American history, from the Founding to the New Deal. Special attention will be devoted to the intellectual history of reform periods and to answering the question whether the social contract has been redefined periodically in American political history. Prerequisites: At least one course in PLAP.
PAVS 4500: Pavilion Seminar
Credits: 3
The Pavilion Seminars are open, by instructor permission, to 3rd and 4th year students. They are 3-credit, multidisciplinary seminars, focused on big topics and limited to max. 15 students each. For detailed descriptions of current offerings, see
AMST 4559: New Course in American Studies
Credits: 1–4
New Course in the subject of American Studies.
PLPT 4990: Honors Core Seminar in Political Theory
Credits: 9
A critical analysis of important issues and works in political theory from diverse perspectives. Students are required to write weekly analytical essays and actively participate in small seminar discussions on issues including: theories of common good, economic justice, toleration and free society, and radical criticism. Prerequisite: Admission to Politics Honors Program.
AMST 4998: Distinguished Majors Program Thesis Research
Credits: 3
Students spend the fall semester of their 4th years working closely with a faculty advisor to conduct research and begin writing their Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) thesis.
AMST 4999: Distinguished Majors Thesis Seminar
Credits: 3
This workshop is for American Studies majors who have been admitted to the DMP program. Students will discuss the progress of their own and each other's papers, with particular attention to the research and writing processes. At the instructor's discretion, students will also read key works in the field of American Studies. Prerequisites: admission to DMP.
PLPT 5993: Selected Problems in Theory and Method
Credits: 1–3
Independent study under faculty supervision, for students who are preparing for intensive research on a specific topic. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.
PLPT 8500: Special Topics in Political Theory
Credits: 3
Special Topics in Political Theory