Lena Salaymeh

Professeure invitée 2023-2024

March 2024

I am a scholar of law and history specializing in critical theory. I use interdisciplinary and critical methods to ask historical, historiographic, and jurisprudential questions about Islamic law and Jewish law in the late antique, medieval, and modern eras.

My first book, The beginnings of Islamic law: late antique Islamicate legal traditions, offers a historically grounded understanding of Islamic law. Like artists who use a combination of reused and new materials, Muslim jurists crafted their legal opinions by fusing ancient norms, scripture, Prophetic precedents, local practice, and contemporaneous needs in unexpected ways. The craft of legal recycling produced works whose component parts are not easily identifiable or classifiable. I demonstrate that the art of Islamic jurisprudence reflects its dialogical relationship with contemporaneous and predecessor legal traditions. In addition to exploring Islamic law in several case studies, the book deconstructs conventional research methods and offers critical alternatives. The beginnings of Islamic law received the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the category of Textual Studies.

At Oxford, I am concurrently researching two projects. The first project focuses on the contemporary genre of revolutionary Islamic jurisprudence, which argues for or against revolution based on Islamic legal principles. ‘Revolutionary Islamic law’ emerged during and after recent Arab uprisings (2010 and afterwards). Building on my previous scholarship, this research critically analyses this genre’s legal rationales and depictions of Islamic history. The second project investigates decoloniality in specific forms of resistance. Despite challenging entrenched systems of colonial power, modern revolutionary movements often remain trapped within the oppressive framework of coloniality. (Coloniality is a universalising mode of thought that justifies colonialism.) My research identifies and explicates certain cases that destabilize both coloniality and colonialism. Although controversial and convoluted, decolonial practices are more subversive than more common, anti-colonial practices.

I also co-direct, at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law (Hamburg), a research project on decolonial comparative law, which merges my background in comparative law and decolonial theory.

Most of my publications are available here.

My research has been supported by a Guggenheim fellowship, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. I have held visiting positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sciences Religieuses), Princeton University (Davis Center, Department of History), and the Max Planck Institute (Hamburg). I received my PhD in Legal and Islamic History from UC Berkeley and my JD from Harvard. I am an inactive member of the California Bar.

SMMAC "Colonialist feminism and Islamic studies"

Seminar "Neocolonialism and International Law”