Professional and Biographic Information


Ph.D., Harvard University (2021)
M.A., Harvard University (2014)
B.A., Sciences PoParis, France (2012)

Professor Ben-Ismail holds a Ph.D. in the study of Muslim societies and cultures from Harvard University. Before joining the Amherst faculty, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the humanities at Columbia University.

Research Interests

Professor Ben-Ismail's research interests focus on the intellectual history of empire, Middle Eastern legal and political thought, the history of international law, and colonial and post-colonial studies. His current book project, "Between Legal Worlds: The Tunisian Question and the Making of Modern Sovereignty," traces the history of the French-Ottoman imperial dispute over the sovereign status of the Regency of Tunis in the nineteenth century. Drawing on archival research in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, French, and Italian, the book takes the imperial rivalry over the status of Tunis as a case-study to explore how different genealogies of sovereignty and statehood circulated, competed, and influenced one another across legal-epistemological traditions.

Teaching Interests

Professor Ben-Ismail teaches courses that explore legal cultures, state practices, and political ideas shaped outside of or in tension with the history of Europe and the United States. His teaching interests include law and colonialism, international law and empire, and the history of political thought in the global south.