Tobias Scheunchen

Advisor(s): Ahmed El Shamsy
Islamic History and Civilization

Academic Bio

Tobias is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and a visiting graduate student at Princeton during the 2021–2022 academic year. His dissertation—a social history of justice and the formation of Islamic law in Egypt—is entitled “Dispensing justice in late antique and early Islamic Egypt (600–750): judges, ordinary people, and the birth of Islamic law in a multi-confessional society.” Tobias is interested in understanding how non-Muslim ideas of justice endured into the Umayyad period and how ordinary Muslims, Christians, and Jews, as well as legal professionals, navigated the pluralistic legal infrastructure of post-conquest Egypt. His dissertation examines how late antique legal ideas and practices were integrated into the growing body of Islamic laws and how the availability of a multi-tiered system of dispute resolution in late antique Egypt informed the individual calculations that people had to make vis-à-vis changing personal circumstances, local conditions, and political structures. Based on a joint reading of narrative sources and documentary papyri, Tobias’s dissertation posits that in the post-conquest period, Egypt’s expansion and consolidation of an Islamic legal infrastructure were contingent on Muslim professionals and administrators’ yielding to the legal expectations of its rural population whose ideas of justice had been largely shaped by Roman and Christian legal practices.

Tobias is more broadly interested in the formation of Islamic legal institutions, ritual law, Arabic papyrology, late antiquity, and manuscript studies. He previously earned a Master of Legal Studies from the University of Chicago Law School and a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies from the American University of Beirut. He has extensively studied Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Syriac and is currently undergoing the ordeals of Greek 101. Tobias’s work has appeared in the Harvard Journal of Islamic Law, the Journal of Religion, Gorgias Press, and Ergon Verlag.