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Sarah Ghabrial, PhD

Assistant Professor, History

Sarah Ghabrial, PhD
Office: S-LB 1041-07 
J.W. McConnell Building,
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2402
Availability: I will be on leave for the Winter 2020 term and will not be holding regular office hours.

Research Bio

Broadly, my research is concerned with questions of law and the management of social difference in colonial and postcolonial perspective, with a particular focus on nineteenth-century North Africa. My monograph in progress, based on my dissertation (McGill 2014), is a social and gender history of the French-colonial administration of Islamic "family law" in Algeria from 1870 to 1930. This project is centrally concerned with how colonial courtrooms functioned as a site of encounter between the colonial state and Algerian subjects, and how these spaces mediated litigants' engagement with both local and transnational transformations in Western and Islamic legal cultures. In 2016, my dissertation was awarded the Canadian Historical Association's John Bullen Thesis Prize.
       In the Winter/Spring term, 2020, I will be a Visiting Fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Research at Princeton University, where I will be completing work on my first book manuscript.
       Through a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, which I held at Columbia University (2015-2017), I have been engaged in new research that traces the creation, administration, and demise of the "repressive tribunals" in colonial Algeria (1902-1931), a special penal jurisdiction where summary justice was dispensed to Muslim subjects. This project aims, among other things, to bring archival depth and transnational scope to discussions on the relationship between race, law, security, counterinsurgency, and exception. Developing out of these interests, I am beginning to work on a new project, which was recently awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, that deals with the criminalization of mobility and the formation of modern (colonial and postcolonial) border-policing regimes in the Mediterranean.

Supervision: I welcome undergraduate Honours students and prospective M.A. students with any of the following interests to contact me about potential thesis supervision:

  • North Africa and Middle East (1800-present)

  • Imperialism and colonization (19th–20th c.)

  • Europe and Islam

  • Islamic law (social and subaltern histories of 'reform')

  • gender, sexuality

  • the 'family' in legal history

  • legal pluralism

  • modern France and French Empire

  • race, violence, and exception


Selected Publications

“The ‘slave-wife’ between private household and public order in colonial Algeria (1848-1914),” in Mary Ann Fay (ed.), Slavery in the Islamic World: Its Characteristics and Commonality. New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018: 179-202.

“Gender, Power, and Agency in Middle East History,” Roundtable on Gender as an Analytical Category in Middle East Studies, International Journal of Middle EastStudies 48. 3 (July 2016): 561-564.


“The Traumas and Truths of the Body: Medical Evidence and Divorce in Colonial Algerian Courts,” Journal ofMiddle East Women’s Studies 11.3 (Nov 2015): 283-305. [Winner:2014 JMEWS Graduate Student Paper Prize]


“Colonial Sisterhood: Les Soeurs Missionnaires de Notre-Dame d’Afrique and the ‘Regeneration of the Muslim Woman’ in Algeria, 1890-1920,” Genre et colonisation /Gender and Colonization 1.1 (Spring 2013): 56-97.

Teaching activities

Fall 2019

International Public Law (POLI 311)
Seminar: Historical Theories and Methods (HIST 600)

Winter/Spring 2019

Introduction to Law and Society (ANTH-HIST-POLI-SOCI 285)
International Public Law (POLI 311-B)

Fall 2018

Seminar: Islam and the West (HIST 498-A/670-A)
Islamic Law and Society (POLI 313)

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