Mark Fathi Massoud Receives the 2022 Ralph J. Bunche Award

The Ralph J. Bunche Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism. This year we have co-winners for the Ralph J. Bunche Award: Nadia E. Brown and Danielle Lemi for their work Sister Style; and Mark Fathi Massoud for his work Shari’a, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics.

Mark Fathi Massoud, author of Shari’a, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics, is a professor of politics and legal studies at University of California, Santa Cruz, where he directs the Legal Studies Program.  He also holds an appointment as a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford. Massoud studies law in states under crisis, using archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews.  His book, Shari’a, Inshallah (Cambridge University Press, 2021), investigates the relationship between religious faith and the rule of law in Somalia and Somaliland.  His book, Law’s Fragile State (Cambridge University Press, 2013) shows how colonial officials, authoritarian regimes, and international lawyers have used the rule of law to govern Sudan. Massoud is also principal investigator (with Kathleen M. Moore) of Shari’a Revoiced, a study of Islamic law in the United States.

Citation from the Award Committee: 

Shari’a, Inshallah makes a key contribution in a context that seems worlds away from U.S. woes about elections and representation: Massoud examines the contested definition of Shari’a law in Somalia, between colonialism, post-colonialism, and on the ground.  Given the western prejudices and predominant definitions of the term Shari’a, the title of this book in and of itself is brave and bold.  But Shari’a, Inshallah goes much further, highlighting the inextricable connection between Shari’a and the law itself: In the context of Somalia, Massoud shows that Shari’a traditions do not represent a radical departure from the law, but that they in fact are embedded in it, as civic traditions.  In doing so, Massoud shows the (western) reader that Shari’a does not always stand for radical Islam, that religions are not monoliths, and that their traditions are deeply and beneficially embedded in states’ legal frameworks.  The awards committee determined that this book makes an important contribution to understanding civic and legal traditions outside the west.  As it is, American and western-centric studies are still over-represented in the field, and Massoud makes an invaluable, brave, and insightful contribution that absolutely deserves special recognition.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Dr. Annika M. Hinze (chair) of Fordham University, Dr. Natasha Altema McNeely of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and Thomas K. Ogorzalek of Co-Lab Research.

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