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Mark Fathi Massoud, Law and Politics, University of California Santa Cruz

  • When: November 10, 2021, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

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How Religion Strengthens the Rule of Law: Research Findings from the Horn of Africa

Professor Mark Fathi Massoud will discuss his book, Shari’a, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics (Cambridge University Press 2021). Based on historical research, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews in the Horn of Africa, Shari'a, Inshallah documents nearly 140 years of historic attempts by the Somali people to use shari'a to strengthen human rights and the rule of law — including attempts by contemporary women's rights activists to push for gender equality by invoking shari'a. Massoud upends the conventional account of secular legal progress and demonstrates instead how faith in a higher power guides people toward the rule of law. In a space where secular human rights interventions have failed, Massoud shows how future progress in human rights and the rule of law is still possible under shari'a.

Photo and bio courtesy of UC Santa Cruz

Mark Fathi Massoud is a professor of politics and legal studies at UC Santa Cruz. He directs the Legal Studies Program and serves as affiliated faculty with the Center for the Middle East and North Africa.

Massoud studies law in states under crisis, using archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews. His first book, Law's Fragile State, examines how colonial officials, authoritarian regimes, and international lawyers reformed Sudan's legal systems to achieve their goals. His second book, Shari'a, Inshallah, investigates the endurance of Islamic law in Somali politics. Massoud is also principal investigator (with Kathleen M. Moore) of Shari'a Revoiced, a study of Islamic law in the United States.

Massoud is series editor of the Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. He serves on the editorial boards of Law & Social InquiryLaw & Policy, and the International Journal of Law in Context. He sits on the Advisory Council of the NSF Law & Science Dissertation Grant Program, and on the Board of Trustees of the Law and Society Association

Born in Sudan and raised in California, Massoud is a first-generation university graduate. He has received Guggenheim, Carnegie, Mellon, and ACLS fellowships, and he has held visiting positions at Stanford, Princeton, Oxford, and McGill. He will give the Evans-Pritchard Lectures at Oxford University in 2022.

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