About Me

Jacob Abolafia is currently the 2019-2020 Harvard-Tel Aviv Exchange Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University. He received a PhD in Political Theory in 2019 from the Department of Government at Harvard University.

Jacob's dissertation, “Penal Modernism before Modernity: Correction and Confinement in the History of Political Thought”, was advised by Danielle Allen (Chair), Richard Tuck, and Bernard Harcourt. The dissertation advances the thesis that the practice of penal incarceration has its roots not in the 18th century Enlightenment, but in earlier classical and post-classical tendencies in political theory and philosophy, with close attention to the work of Plato, Thomas More, and Jeremy Bentham. The thesis seeks both to contribute to the ongoing debate among political theorists and historians over the "birth of the prison" as well as to reframe the distinction between ancient and modern texts in the history of political thought.

Jacob has published and taught on the history of political thought, broadly construed, 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 intellectual history.

Jacob holds a BA (Hons.) in Philosophy from Yale University (2010), and completed M.Phils in Political Thought and Intellectual History (2011) and Classics/Ancient Philosophy (2012) at Cambridge, where he was a Paul Mellon Fellow at Clare College until 2013. At Harvard, Jacob has been the organizer of the European Philosophy Workshop (2015-17), as well as convener of the Graduate Conference in Political Theory and the Political Theory Colloquium and a Graduate Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

He lives in Jaffa. 

Current CV