Skip to main content

Jessica Marglin

Ruth Ziegler Early Career Chair in Jewish Studies and Assistant Professor of Religion

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 821-2912

Curriculum Vitae

Biographical Sketch

I work on the history of Jews and Jewish-Muslim relations in modern North Africa and the Mediterranean.  More broadly, I have interests in the history of Jews in the Islamic world, in Sephardic history, and in Mediterranean Studies.  I am particularly passionate about legal history; my first book project, Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco, is a study of Jews in the Moroccan legal system in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It argues that law acted as a vector of Jews' integration into the broader Moroccan society in which they lived; indeed, during the late nineteenth century, Jews were able to take advantage of Morocco's expanding legal pluralism to advance their own commercial and political interests.  However, with colonial legal reforms (beginning after the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1912), Jews found themselves increasingly unable to shop amongst the various legal fora that coexisted in Morocco, and the advantages they had gained in the pre-colonial period were largely taken away.  In this project, I draw on both Jewish and Islamic legal documents, as well as the archives of courts run by the consulates of various Western states that operated in Morocco.

I am beginning work on a new project that investigates disputes over the inheritance of Nissim Shamama, a Jew from Tunisia who died in Livorno in 1873 leaving behind a huge fortune.  Shamama's contested estate offers a fascinating case study how various legal regimes collide-- Jewish, Islamic, Italian, French, and international.  The different legal arguments made pertaining to the case-- by Jewish jurists, Tunisian government officials, and French and Italian lawyers-- bring into focus the crystallization of nationality across the Mediterranean.

Before coming to USC, I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and a BA at Harvard College.  In addition to my formal training, I have studied in France, Israel, and Morocco, where I also undertook archival research.  


Description of Research

Research Specialties

Jews and Muslims in modern North Africa and the Mediterranean; legal history; Non-Muslims in the Islamic world; Mediterranean Studies
Faculty may update their profile by visiting