Arezou Azad

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Arezou Azad

Programme Director and Senior Research fellow

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Faḍāʾil-i Balkh or the Merits of Balkh

Arezou is a historian of the medieval Islamicate East from the coming of Islam in the 7th century CE to the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, and all its various component cultures and societies.

She is Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford. She is Junior Professor and Chair of the Arts and Heritage of Afghanistan at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco) in Paris.

Arezou's first book was entitled Sacred Landscape of Medieval Afghanistan (Oxford, 2013) which explores the ways in which the multicultural region of Balkh in Afghanistan, which hosted one of the most magnificent Buddhist monasteries and temples in antiquity, became "the dome of Islam."

Her second book, a fully commentated translation of the medieval local history of Balkh, produced together with Edmund Herzig and Ali Mir-Ansari, came out in 2020 in the distinguished Gibb Memorial Trust series.

She is currently finishing two further books: one being a study of the Bamiyan Papers and Firuzkuh Papers from medieval Afghanistan; the other, in collaboration with Pejman Firoozbakhsh, being a translation of a History of the Barmakids.

Arezou leads two team-focussed projects, the PersDoc project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Go.Local project funded by the European Research Council, both focussed on the study of documents, literary sources and material culture from medieval Afghanistan and Central Asia, and she is the director of the Invisible East programme.

She received her DPhil (doctorate) from Oxford's Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (formerly, the Oriental Institute), after which she co-directed the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust 2011-2015. Arezou was a lecturer in medieval history at the University of Birmingham from 2013-2019.

She was born and raised in Germany, and before joining academia served as a UN peacekeeper in the Balkans, Timor Leste, and other hotspots around the world.