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Members of the seminar investigate the legal, political, and institutional aspects of society both as they function in reality and as they should function according to theory. The investigation is both global and timeless, although European and American interests seem to dominate. Lectures and discussions range from classical Greece, Rome, and Israel, through medieval Europe, Islam, and Asia, to modern and contemporary societies. Aspects of Roman, Talmudic, Islamic, canon and common laws are examined. The majority of the lectures are presented by the members of the seminar, most of whom are academics in history, political science or law, or professionals who have become editors. One or two papers each year are presented by visiting scholars.

Sarah Danielsson

Kenneth Pearl


Meeting Schedule

10/24/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
Clarence Darrow for the Defense: Leopold-Loeb, Chicago Politics, and the Perfect Crime
Simon Baatz, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

11/28/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
Gaza, the Laws of Armed Conflict and the Question of Genocide
Dirk Moses, City College of New York


A global protest movement and international lawyers are raising the question of genocide and war crimes in relation to Israel’s campaign in Gaza. This paper will analyze these discussions and explores the attraction of the genocide concept for the protest movement.

02/20/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
The Ruble: A Political History
Ekaterina Pravilova, Princeton University

03/19/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
Colonizing Palestine: The Zionist Left and the Making of the Palestinian Nakba
Areej Sabbagh-Khoury, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Among the most progressive of Zionist settlement movements, Hashomer Hatzair proclaimed a brotherly stance on Zionist-Palestinian relations. Until the tumultuous end of the British Mandate, movement settlers voiced support for a binational Jewish-Arab state and officially opposed mass displacement of Palestinians. But, Hashomer Hatzair colonies were also active participants in the process that ultimately transformed large portions of Palestine into sovereign Jewish territory. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury investigates this ostensible dissonance, tracing how three colonies gained control of land and their engagement with Palestinian inhabitants on the edges of the Jezreel Valley/Marj Ibn 'Amer.