Gianluca Parolin

Associate Professor

Gianluca Parolin joined ISMC in September 2015 with a specialism of comparative law. He is also the faculty lead on the Governance Project.


Dr Parolin previously worked in the Department of Law at the American University in Cairo, having served as a research fellow and earlier as a post-doc in the Law Department of the University of Torino (Italy), his alma mater, which awarded him an LLB/LLM (2001, with honors) and later a PhD in public law (2006).

Current areas of teaching

Comparative law.

Research interests

Dr Parolin has actively contributed to the debate on the constitution drafting in Egypt since early 2011, and has taught classes on the constitutional transitions in the region every semester. His research interests heavily focus on the Middle East. Within the broader field of comparative law, he explores areas that bridge the public/private law divide. Four main lines of research can be identified:

1. Regional Governance and Constitutional Arrangements.

Parolin’s original enquiry into the possible applications of the methods of comparative constitutional law to the classical and contemporary constitutional arrangements in the region (his LLB/LLM thesis focused on the Caliphate and the contemporary forms of government) later brought him to choose Bahrain—which was then entering a phase of constitutional transformation—as a case study.  At the First World Congress on Middle Eastern Studies (Mainz, 2002) Parolin raised the issue of the amending procedure supposedly employed on the 1973 Bahraini Constitution. The opposition later appropriated this claim and a senior official of one of the four boycotting (political) societies invited him to monitor the 2002 general elections in the country. Parolin never stopped studying and following this fascinating country and its problematic demography ever since. His broader, comparative study of constitutions in the GCC member states has become a classic (2007), and will soon be complemented by a piece focusing on executive/legislative relations (forthcoming).

2. Citizenship in the Arab World.

The Gulf is also where Parolin’s interest in citizenship started. He was originally commissioned an article on citizenship in the Gulf for a peer-reviewed journal of Comparative Constitutional Law in Italy, and struggled to find an adequate model to explain the complex intersections of legal systems, jurisdictions, rights and duties that define citizenship in the six GCC countries. The quest for an “adequate model” absorbed him for the following few years, with a sensible broadening of the research to all the legal systems that use Arabic as their main official language. Parolin spent most of these years (including long periods of his doctoral studies) doing onsite research and collecting material in the region. The results were compiled and presented in a manuscript that won a National Center for Research (CNR) award to cover the costs of publication, and was included in the series of the Department of Legal Sciences of the University of Torino. A further publication of such results in English, in a much more accessible format, was promoted and funded by the Editorial Committee of the IMISCOE (the European Network of Excellence on integration, migrations and social cohesion). In its first five months, the book sold over 200 copies worldwide and 600 extra copies were printed -- the book was published by the Amsterdam University Press in The Netherlands and distributed in North America by The University of Chicago Press, while still unfortunately lacking proper distribution in the region.  The book is now freely available in open access format.  Parolin has coordinated a series of pilot projects on citizenship in the Mediterranean, and providing the expertise developed in that field to various initiatives (in particular, the EUDO, UNHCR, UNOHCHR, The Open Society Institute – Justice Initiative).

3. Maslahah and Maqasid al-Shari'ah.

A line of research that originated in Egypt is probably the one that Parolin holds most dear at present. When reading the case law of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court on art. 2 and the copious literature on the subject, Parolin was fascinated by the way the Court—just as Muslim modernist scholars had done decades before—used the concepts of public good (maslahah) and the aims of the law (maqasid al-shari'ah) in a way that seemed utterly in contrast with the scope of such concepts in classical fiqh. A chapter in a book in memoriam of the belated dean of Islamic Law in Italy, Francesco Castro (ad-hoc external committee member for Parolin’s LLB/LLM defence), is where Parolin started laying the foundations for a larger work on this frontier of “Islamic Law Reform”. Asked to be the rapporteur on constitutional provisions on shari‘ah to the Second Conference of the International Consortium on Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) in 2011, Parolin has started developing a coherent comparative overview of such provisions within the overall trajectory of legal systems in Muslim-majority countries (see his chapter in Law, Religion, Constitution (Ashgate, 2013).

4. Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat.

At the frontiers of Islamic Law lies also a relatively new interest of Parolin: the way Islamic Law is applied by Muslim communities in non-Muslim-majority settings—what some scholars call fiqh al-aqalliyyat. He drafted a project on the Islamic impediments to marriage as applied by Muslim communities in Scotland, and the project, which included considerations of citizenship theories and how they may accommodate endogamic rules, was presented by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the British Academy. Parolin spent two months in Scotland in the Summer of 2010 collecting materials and interviewing figures of local Muslim communities and scholars.

Created on:04/26/2016 Last modified:07/19/2017