Jessica Marglin is assistant professor of Religion and the Ruth Ziegler Early Career Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Southern California. She earned her PhD from Princeton University and her BA and MA from Harvard University. Her book, Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco (Yale University Press) was awarded the 2016 Salo Wittmayer Baron Book Prize by the American Academy for Jewish Research for an outstanding first book in Jewish Studies. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Rome Prize and a Fulbright fellowship. Her publications have appeared in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Jewish Social Studies, the Jewish Quarterly Review, the British Journal of Middle East Studies, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. She is currently working on the legal disputes over the estate of Nissim Shamama, a trans-Mediterranean case from the late nineteenth century involving Italian, Jewish, Tunisian, and Islamic law.
The history of Jews and Muslims in North Africa and the Mediterranean, with a particular focus on law.
Nationality on Trial: A Tunisian Jew in Italy and the Making of the Modern Mediterranean
My project uses the disputes over the estate of Nissim Shamama, a Tunisian Jew who died in Italy in 1873, to tell a new story about the nature of the modern Mediterranean. The case, which revolved around determining Shamama’s nationality, represents a meeting point among Jewish, Islamic, Italian, and European international law. Such disputes offer a new understanding of law and nationality in the modern Mediterranean. While recent work has sought to connect the fields of modern European and Middle Eastern history, most seek to do so within the framework of colonialism. While a Mediterraneanist approach offers an alternative way to write interconnected histories of Europe and North Africa, most scholars consider the Mediterranean—as a space connecting people across religious and cultural divides—to have dissolved by the modern period. My project argues that the Mediterranean’s distinctive connectivity did not cease with the coming of modernity. Indeed, the very features that made the Mediterranean a coherent region in the pre-modern period shaped the changes associated with modernity in the Middle Sea. Jews were the quintessential intermediaries among cultures in the pre-modern period, and these transnational ties continued to define them in the nineteenth century. I further argue that European legal history in the nineteenth century is entangled not only with the history of its internal others, especially Jews, but also with that of the Mediterranean’s southern shores.