Jonathan Wyrtzen

Jonathan Wyrtzen's picture
Associate Professor of Sociology, History, and International Affairs; Director of Graduate Studies
Ph.D., History, Georgetown, 2009
M.A., Middle East Studies, University of Texas-Austin, 1999
B.A., Plan II Honors Liberal Arts, University of Texas-Austin, 1996
Areas of Interest: 
Comparative and Historical Sociology; Culture/Knowledge; Family/Gender/Sexuality; Global, Regional and Transnational Sociology
493 College St, Room 307
Phone number: 

Jonathan Wyrtzen’s teaching and research engage questions related to empire and colonialism, state formation and non-state forms of political organization, ethnicity and nationalism, and religion and socio-political action.  His work focuses on society and politics in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly with regards to interactions catalyzed by the expansion of European empires into this region.

His first book, Making Morocco: Colonial Intervention and the Politics of Identity (Cornell University Press, 2015) examines how European colonial intervention in Morocco (1912–1956) established a new type of political field in which notions about and relationships among politics and identity formation were fundamentally transformed. Instead of privileging top-down processes of colonial state formation or bottom-up processes of local resistance, the analysis in Making Morocco focuses on interactions between state and society. During the Protectorate period, interactions among a wide range of European and local actors indelibly politicized four key dimensions of Moroccan identity: religion, ethnicity, territory, and the role of the Alawid monarchy. This colonial inheritance is reflected today in ongoing debates over the public role of Islam, religious tolerance, and the memory of Morocco’s Jews; recent reforms regarding women’s legal status; the monarchy’s multiculturalist recognition of Tamazight (Berber) as a national language alongside Arabic; the still-unresolved territorial dispute over the Western Sahara; and the monarchy’s continued symbolic and practical dominance of the Moroccan political field.

His second book, Worldmaking in the Long Great War: How Local and Colonial Struggles Shaped the Modern Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2022), reexamines how the First World War unmade the greater Ottoman political order that had shaped the Middle East for centuries and opened up the possibility for local and European actors to reimagine political identities and political futures within the region. Running against the standard narrative of European colonial powers imposing artificial boundaries at the Paris Peace Conference, this reexamination of the formative moment in the Middle East’s modern history presents a much more complicated and violent story. The book shifts the frame of the Great War in two important ways: expanding the geographic scope to stretch from Morocco to Iran and the temporal scope to extend into the 1930s. It demonstrates that, instead of an imperial drawing room, it was in and through violent clashes on the ground among competing local and colonial projects during the latter phases of the Long Great War in the 1920s-30s that the Middle East’s states, boundaries, and identities were remade.

He is currently starting up a third book project, tentatively titled Nation in Empire, that explores how spatial and symbolic boundaries of political and social inclusion/exclusion are recurrently drawn and contested. The project focuses on two central cases—the United States and France—tracing out their entwined histories of overland and overseas imperial expansion (including the Caribbean/Americas, Africa/Middle East, East and Southeast Asia) and contraction have patterned long-running struggles over “national” identities and the apportionment of rights.

Recent Publications


Wyrtzen, J. 2022. Worldmaking in the Long Great War: How Local and Colonial Struggles Shaped the Modern Middle East. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Robert L. Jervis and Paul W. Schroeder Best Book Award, 2023, International History and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
  • Honorable Mention, Barrington Moore Book Award, 2023, Comparative Historical Section of American Sociological Association
  • Honorable Mention, Francesco Guicciardini Prize in Historical International Relations, 2023, International Studies Association

Wyrtzen, J. 2015. Making Morocco: Colonial Intervention and the Politics of Identity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.



Chapters, Reviews, and Other

Courses and Seminars


  • SOCY 102, Introduction to the Middle East
  • SOCY 135, Islamic Societies, Culture, and Politics
  • SOCY S135, Society and Politics of North Africa (Taught in Morocco)
  • SOCY 210, The State and its Environment
  • SOCY 232, Islamic Social Movements
  • SOCY 320, World War I and the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • SOCY 339b, Imperialism, Insurgency, and State Building in the Middle East
  • SOCY 372a, Nationalism in North Africa and the Middle East 


  • SOCY 512, Sociology of Islam
  • SOCY 551, Comparative and Historical Methods
  • SOCY 559, Nationalism in North Africa and the Middle East
  • SOCY 567 Postcolonial Social Theory
  • SOCY 563, Imperialism, Insurgency, and State Building in the Middle East
  • SOCY 617, Agrarian Societies: Culture, Society, History, and Development



National & International