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Postdoctoral Fellow

Jacob Abolafia

Jacob Abolafia is a political theorist who writes on the history of political thought and critical theory, broadly construed.

His dissertation (Harvard, 2019) “Penal Modernism before Modernity: Correction and Confinement in the History of Political Thought”, traced the treatment of the prison in political philosophy from Plato’s Athens to Jeremy Bentham’s London, with an eye towards our present carceral dysfunction. In addition to finishing a related manuscript on incarceration and the history of political thought, he is also engaged in research projects on political myths and political economy, as well as contemporary theories of rationality and society.

Jacob has published and taught on the history of political thought from classical antiquity to the present day. His ongoing research interests include social and political philosophy from early modernity through the critical theorists, Jewish and Islamic political thought, classical philosophy, and the intersection of social and political theory.

After receiving his doctorate from Harvard’s Government Department, Jacob was the 2019-2020 Harvard-Tel Aviv Postdoctoral Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University. And, as of 2020, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Van Leer Institute’s Polonsky Academy in Jerusalem. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Civics Initiative, based in the Political Science Department at Stanford University.

Jacob holds a BA (Hons.) in Philosophy from Yale University (2010) and completed M.Phils in Political Thought and Intellectual History (2011) and Ancient Philosophy (2012) at Cambridge, where he was a Paul Mellon Fellow at Clare College until 2013.

Jacob lives in San Francisco, CA.


BA, Yale University (2010) - Philosophy
MA, Cambridge University (2011) - Political Thought & Intellectual History
MA, Cambridge University (2012) - Ancient Philosophy
PhD, Harvard (2019) - Political Science