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Mark Fathi Massoud

Professor · Director of Legal Studies

Mark Fathi Massoud is professor of politics and director of legal studies at UC Santa Cruz, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, where he is also an Associate Member of Nuffield College. Most recently, Massoud was a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School (Fall 2023) and a Berlin Prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (Spring 2024).

Research Interests

Massoud studies how people build and destroy nations, why and how they create legal systems, and why religion matters in politics. His primary methods include historical and archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews. He is the author of two books. Shari’a, Inshallah, which garnered seven book awards, shows how how activists and officials use religion to build law and national identity. It is based on research in Somalia and Somaliland. Law’s Fragile State, which earned two book awards, argues that colonial officials, authoritarian regimes, and international lawyers all used the rule of law to govern Sudan. Massoud is also co-editor of Out of Place: Fieldwork and Positionality in Law and Society, and co-PI of Shari’a Revoiced, a study of religion, law, and ethics among California Muslims.

book cover to Shari'a, Inshallah (2021)

⭐ WINNER, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

⭐ WINNER, DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD, Sociology of Religion, American Sociological Association

⭐ WINNER, RALPH J. BUNCHE AWARD, American Political Science Association

⭐ WINNER, HART SLSA BOOK PRIZE, Socio-Legal Studies Association


⭐ WINNER, BKFS PRIZE for best book in Middle East Studies

⭐ FINALIST, PROSE AWARD for best book in government and politics, Association of American Publishers

Western analysts have long denigrated Islamic states as antagonistic, even antithetical, to the rule of law. Mark Fathi Massoud tells a different story: for nearly 150 years, the Somali people have embraced shari’a, commonly translated as Islamic law, in the struggle for national identity and human rights. 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.

Book trailer by Erick Msumanje


Born in Sudan and raised in California, Massoud is a first-generation university graduate educated at Notre Dame (BA/MA) and Berkeley (JD/PhD). He has held Carnegie, Guggenheim, and Mellon Foundation fellowships, and visiting positions at Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. He has given the Reza Banakar Memorial Lecture in Sweden and the Evans-Pritchard Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford.

Professional Service

Massoud is an editor of the Cambridge Studies in Law and Society book series. He serves on the Advisory Council of the NSF Law and Science Dissertation Grant Program. He is a past trustee of the Law and Society Association.

photo shows Dr. Massoud speaking at a podium dressed in formal academic regalia
Photo of Massoud speaking on BBC World News

Mark Fathi Massoud (he/هو)

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