Skip to main content


Youssef Ben Ismail

Lecturer, Middle Eastern South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

Fellow, Society of Fellows, SOF/Heyman, Columbia University (2021–Present)

email address [email protected]
Headshot of Youssef Ben Ismail

Youssef Ben Ismail is a historian of the Ottoman Mediterranean and modern North Africa. He received a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 2021. His research deals with law and empire in the nineteenth-century Mediterranean, with a focus on the history of sovereignty in Europe and the Ottoman Empire. He is currently writing a book on the French-Ottoman imperial dispute over the sovereign status of Tunis following the conquest of Algiers in 1830. The book takes the imperial rivalry over Tunis as a case study for exploring how Ottoman and European conceptions of state sovereignty circulated, competed, and influenced one another across imperial legal traditions. Research for this project has received support from the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations at Koç University (Istanbul) as well as from various centers at Harvard University, including the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Center for African Studies.

His interests also include the cultural manifestations of Ottoman belonging in North Africa. His article on the cultural history of the Ottoman fez trade in the early modern Mediterranean will be published in 2021 in Muqarnas.