Ascholar specialized on the intersection of law, history, and society, Mugambi Jouet became a law professor at the University of Southern California (USC) after teaching at Stanford and McGill. His book Exceptional America: What Divides Americans From the World and From Each Other was published by the University of California Press in 2017. He has especially explored the distinctive evolution of American criminal justice, government, and political culture. In 2022, he won the Brophy Prize for the article in the American Journal of Legal History that “most significantly breaks new ground and adds new insights to the study and understanding of United States legal history.”

His research has appeared in peer-reviewed academic journals or law reviews, such as the American Journal of Legal History, American Journal of Comparative LawJournal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Federal Sentencing Reporter, and Theoretical Criminology. His commentary has been featured in Slate, The New Republic, Boston Review, Mother JonesThe San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post,  The HillLibération, Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, and Le Monde, France’s flagship newspaper. He has been interviewed by the media many times, such as on C-SPAN’s Book TV, diverse National Public Radio showsFrance 24 TV news programsFrench national public radio, CBC, and Radio Canada. He has presented his research at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Cambridge Forum at Harvard Square, Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., and the L.A. Times book festival. He gave keynote lectures at the University of Pennsylvania’s Levin Family Dean’s Forum in 2018 and at the University of Toronto’s Center of Criminology & Sociolegal Studies in 2020, among multiple other academic lectures.

His book Exceptional America takes a comparative look at peculiar dimensions of American politics, culture, law, social issues, economics, religion, and criminal justice, from mass incarceration to the death penalty. At a time when the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies have sharply divided the United States, it explains how and why Americans are far more polarized than other Westerners over their basic values and worldview. Alongside historical, political, legal, and sociological sources, Jouet’s book draws on his observations as a “global citizen” having lived in different regions of America, from the liberal North to the Southern Bible Belt and West Coast.

Raised in Paris by a French mother and Kenyan father, he attended university in the United States, studying law, public policy, and history. Before entering academia, he served for three years as a public defender representing indigent persons in Manhattan’s courtrooms, from homicide cases to the War on Drugs. Trilingual in English, French, and Spanish, he has traveled widely internationally and within America.


A Lost Chapter in Death Penalty History: Furman v. Georgia, Albert Camus, and the Normative Challenge to Capital Punishment,” 49 American Journal of Criminal Law 119 (2022).

Revolutionary Criminal Punishments: Treason, Mercy, and the American Revolution,” 61 American Journal of Legal History 139 (2021) (peer-reviewed) (Winner of Brophy Prize).

Death Penalty Abolitionism From the Enlightenment to Modernity,” American Journal of Comparative Law (2023) (peer-reviewed).

The Abolition and Retention of Life Without Parole in Europe: A Comparative and Historical Perspective,” 4 European Convention on Human Rights Law Review 306 (2023) (peer-reviewed). 

Foucault, Prison, and Human Rights: A Dialectic of Theory and Criminal Justice Reform,” 26 Theoretical Criminology 202 (2022) (peer-reviewed).

The Day Canada Said No to the Death Penalty in the United States: Innocence, Dignity, and the Evolution of Abolitionism,” 55 UBC Law Review 439 (2022) (peer-reviewed).

Guns, Mass Incarceration, and Bipartisan Reform: Beyond Vicious Circle and Social Polarization,” Arizona State Law Journal (forthcoming 2023).

Juveniles Are Not So Different: The Punishment of Juveniles and Adults at the Crossroads,” 33 Federal Sentencing Reporter 278 (2021) (peer-reviewed).

Mass Incarceration Paradigm Shift?: Convergence in an Age of Divergence,” 109 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 703 (2019).

Guns, Identity, and Nationhood,” 5 Nature – Palgrave Communications 138 (2019) (peer-reviewed).

“The Exceptional Absence of Human Rights as a Principle in American Law,” 34 Pace Law Review 688 (2014).

“Judging Leaders Who Facilitate Crimes by a Foreign Army: International Courts Differ on a Novel Legal Issue,” 47 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 1091 (2014).

“The Failed Invigoration of Argentina’s Constitution: Presidential Omnipotence, Repression, Instability, and Lawlessness in Argentine History,” 39 Inter-American Law Review 409 (2008).

“Spain’s Expanded Universal Jurisdiction to Prosecute Human Rights Abuses in Latin America, China, and Beyond,” 35 Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law (2007).

“Reconciling the Conflicting Rights of Victims and Defendants at the International Criminal Court,” 26 St. Louis University Public Law Review 249 (2007).


The Human Toll of Antonin Scalia’s Time on the Court, Slate, February 17, 2016.

Code Switch, Mother Jones, January/February 2017. 

Why Does Kamala Harris Defend the Death Penalty?, San Francisco Chronicle, September 2, 2015.

America’s Big Blind Spot on Human Rights, The New Republic, October 7, 2014.

Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization, Boston Review, December 7, 2020.

Why Evangelicals Support Trump, The New Republic, May 13, 2016.

The Politics of Faith and American Exceptionalism, Huffington Post, April 29, 2012.

Is the Supreme Court Disconnected From the Real World?, The Hill, April, 22, 2014.

Why Gay Marriage Is So Controversial in America, Huffington Post, June 1, 2012.

Sanitizing the Death Penalty, Huffington Post, May 27, 2014.

The Separation of Church and State – Then and Now, Huffington Post, June 4, 2013.

Behind DOMA Ruling, America Stands Divided on Gay Rights, Huffington Post, July 16, 2013.

Don’t Call it “Obamacare,” Huffington Post, October 21, 2013.

The Sochi Olympics Emboldened Putin’s Abuses in Ukraine and Russia, Huffington Post, March 18, 2014.

Thatcher Backed Pinochet in Landmark Human Rights Case, Huffington Post, April 24, 2013.

L’Exceptionnalisme Américain au Cœur de la Campagne, Slate (France), October 20, 2012. 

Les Promesses d’Unité d’Obama Face à la Réalité d’un Pays Fortement Divisé, Le Monde, January 10, 2012.

Ferguson, le Social Plombé par le Racisme, Libération, August 26, 2014.

L’Emprise de l’Anti-Intellectualisme sur la Présidentielle Américaine, Libération, November 7, 2016.

Comparing Political Extremism in Europe and America, Huffington Post, May 17, 2012.

2014, Année de l’Enlisement des Etats-Unis, Le Nouvel Observateur, 30 December 30, 2014.

L’Exécution Sans Douleur, un Moyen de Soulager le Bourreau, Le Nouvel Observateur, May 22, 2014.

La Tuerie du Colorado Evoque l’Exceptionnalisme Américain, Huffington Post (France), August 6, 2012.

L’influence Exceptionnelle de la Religion dans la Présidentielle Américaine, Huffington Post (France), April 29, 2012.

Un Système Pénal Fondé sur le Tout-répressif, Le Monde, June 3, 2011.

Obama’s Second Term Could be Marked by Continued Gridlock and Polarization, Huffington Post, November 7, 2012.


Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Ph.D. in Law, summa cum laude, 2019.

Northwestern University School of Law, Juris Doctor, cum laude, 2006.

New York University, Master in Public Policy, 2003.

Rice University, Bachelor of Arts in History, 2001.