Thought Leadership From Top Scholars
Williams Has No Qualms About Giving a Damn
In Giving a Damn: Racism, Romance and Gone with the Wind (Harper Collins, 2021), Professor Patricia Williams finds that when you begin to unpick current debates around immigration, freedom of speech, the culture wars and wall-building, beneath them lies the unexamined history of laws by which human beings were rendered property. Williams argues that practices of dehumanization rely on structures of relationthat can be traced all the way from the plantation to ex-President Trump’s Twitter account.
“This is a legacy that cannot be fully understood as a simply a matter of personal prejudice or individual blame or innocence. I’m interested in less visible cultural artifacts that affect us all, like the aesthetics of hierarchy, the sense of geographic place, or normed modes of address,” says Williams, a past recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
Williams begins in the American South with Gone With the Wind (still the second most popular book in the US after the Bible), that nostalgic tale full of the myths of the Southern belle, Southern culture, “good food and good manners.” The scene is seductive, from a distance. How nice it is to paper over the obliging slavery at the novel’s core and enjoy the wisteria-covered plantations, now the venue for weddings. But papering over has left us in a world that has never been more segregated, incarcerated or separated from each other, according to Williams. She wants to know which ideas brought the richest and most diverse nation on the planet to the brink of resurgent, violent division and what this means for the rest of the world.
New Book Co-Edited by Professor Davis Explores Impact of COVID-19 on Human Rights
Professor Martha Davis, faculty director for Northeastern Law’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and NuLawLab, is the co-editor of a newly published book, COVID-19 and Human Rights (Routledge, 2021). This timely collection, co-edited with Morten Kjaerum, adjunct professor at University of Aalborg, Denmark, and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden, and Amanda Lyons, lecturer in law and executive director of the Human Rights Center at University of Minnesota Law School, brings together original explorations of the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-ranging, global effects on human rights.
Contributors to the collection, including Professor Brook Baker, argue that a human rights perspective is necessary to understand the pervasive consequences of the crisis. Acknowledging the pandemic as a defining moment for human rights, the volume proposes a post-crisis human rights agenda to engage civil society and government at all levels in concrete measures to roll back increasing inequality.
With rich examples, new thinking and provocative analyses of human rights, COVID-19, pandemics, crises and inequality, this book will be of key interest to scholars, students and practitioners in all areas of human rights, global governance and public health, as well as others who are ready to embark on an exploration of these complex challenges.
“The pieces in this collection make the case that a human rights perspective is critical to both the response to COVID-19 and the recovery from the pandemic,” said Davis.
Davis’ previous books include Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities; Human Rights Advocacy in the United States; Bringing Human Rights Home; Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement and Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty.
Davis Co-Edits New Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty
Professor Martha Davis, faculty director for Northeastern Law’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and the NuLawLab, is a co-editor of the newly published Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021). The book explores the nexus between human rights, poverty and inequality as a critical lens for understanding and addressing key challenges of the coming decades. It is an essential reference guide for those who teach in these areas and for scholars and students developing future research agendas of their own and will also serve as a much-needed resource for people working practically to address poverty in both the Global North and Global South.
“Bringing human rights tools and perspectives to bear on persistent poverty and inequality is more important than ever in this moment of political and social unrest,” said Professor Davis, whose previous books include Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities; Human Rights Advocacy in the United States; Bringing Human Rights Home; and Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement.
Co-edited by Morten Kjaerum, adjunct professor at University of Aalborg, Denmark, and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden, and Amanda Lyons, lecturer in law and executive director of the Human Rights Center at University of Minnesota Law School, the Research Handbook starts from the premise that poverty is not solely an issue of minimum income and explores the profound ways that deprivation and distributive inequality of power and capability relate to economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. Leading experts in the human rights field representing a range of disciplines outline a future research agenda to address poverty and inequality head on. Beginning with an interrogation of the definition of poverty, subsequent chapters analyze the dynamics of poverty and inequality in relation to matters such as race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, geography and migration status. The rights to housing, land, health, work, education, protest and access to justice are also explored, with a recognition of the challenges posed by corruption, climate change and new technologies.
The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern Law, the Human Rights Center at University of Minnesota School of Law and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden, co-hosted two webinars on the book on April 14 and May 18, 2021.
Baker Harnesses “Revolutionary Power” in Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition
In Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition (Island Press, 2021), Professor Shalanda Baker ’05 arms those made most vulnerable by our current energy system with the tools they need to remake the system in the service of their humanity. She argues that people of color, poor people and indigenous people must engage in the creation of the new energy system in order to upend the unequal power dynamics of the current system. Baker tells the stories of those who have been left behind in our current system and those who are working to be architects of a more just system. She draws from her experience as an energy-justice advocate, a lawyer and a queer woman of color to inspire activists working to build our new energy system. “Revolutionary Power is a playbook for the energy transformation complete with a step-by-step analysis of the key energy policy areas that are ripe for intervention,” said Baker, co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice.
“Revolutionary Power is a playbook for the energy transformation complete with a step-by-step analysis of the key energy policy areas that are ripe for intervention,” said Baker, co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice.
Rolland Co-authors an Interdisciplinary Study of the Nature of Order Underlying China’s Globalism
The post-war liberal economic order seems to be crumbling, placing the world at an inflection point. China has emerged as a major force, and other emerging economies seek to play a role in shaping world trade and investment law. Might they band together to mount a wholesale challenge to current rules and institutions? Emerging Powers in the International Economic Order argues that resistance from the Global South and the creation of China-led alternative spaces will have some impact, but no robust alternative vision will emerge. Significant legal innovations from the South depart from the mainstream neoliberal model, but these countries are driven by pragmatism and strategic self-interest and not a common ideological orientation, nor do they intend to fully dismantle the current ordering. In Emerging Powers in the International Economic Order (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Professor Sonia Rolland and her co-author, David Trubek, predict a more pluralistic world, which is neither the continued hegemony of neoliberalism nor a full blown alternative to it.
Dyal-Chand and Enrich Release New Book on the Current State of American Urban Cores
The problems of entrenched poverty and economic underdevelopment in American urban cores involve multiple overlapping challenges that have stymied consistent and long-term progress for many decades. Although inadequate and misguided laws are not solely responsible for this state of affairs, good laws - and good lawyering - can contribute enormously to overcoming the challenges of the urban cores. In Legal Scholarship for the Urban Core: From the Ground Up (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Professors Rashmi Dyal-Chand and Peter Enrich showcase a range of scholarly analyses, covering a broad spectrum of legal issues and methodologies, to demonstrate how law and lawyers can and do respond to the challenges of the urban cores. The co-edited book provides paths forward at the local level in the face of federal political paralysis and inattention and lays a foundation for new paradigms and new approaches to intransigent problems. Modeling engaged legal scholarship as a pragmatic response to contemporary challenges, this book is for anyone concerned about the current state of American urban cores.
Dyal-Chand Says Sharing is a Path to Business Success in Collaborative Capitalism in American Cities: Reforming Urban Market Regulations
In many American cities, the urban cores still suffer. Poverty and unemployment remain endemic, despite policy initiatives aimed at systemic solutions. In Collaborative Capitalism in American Cities: Reforming Urban Market Regulations (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Professor Rashmi Dyal-Chand focuses on how businesses in some urban cores are succeeding despite the challenges.
Using three examples of urban collaborative capitalism, Dyal-Chand extrapolates a set of lessons about sharing. She argues that sharing can fuel business development and growth. Sharing among businesses can be critical for their economic survival. Sharing can also produce a particularly stable form of economic growth by giving economic stability to employees.
“Sharing can allow American businesses to remain competitive while returning more wealth to their workers, and this more collaborative approach can help solve the problems of urban underdevelopment and poverty,” said Dyal-Chand, who served as an associate general counsel of The Community Builders, Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer, prior to joining academia.
Dyal-Chand’s book has already been lauded for its insights. According to Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of No Freedom Without Regulation: The Hidden Lesson of the Subprime Crisis, the book is, “An eye-opening exploration of how cooperation might temper the harshness of economic competition and reverse our slide into inequality while restoring a measure of economic stability to the many who have lost it in recent years.”
Second Edition of Davis’ Human Rights Advocacy in the United States Now Available
The second edition of Professor Martha Davis’ co-authored book, Human Rights Advocacy in the United States, has been released by West Academic Publishing. First published in 2014, it is the only law school casebook devoted to human rights advocacy in the United States.
“Understanding human rights tools is more important than ever to U.S. legal advocates,” said Davis, a human rights and social justice expert who has co-edited two other books, Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities and Bringing Human Rights Home, and is the author of Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement, 1960-1973. “From water quality in Flint, Michigan, to issues of federalism, human rights norms form a backdrop that domestic advocates cannot afford to ignore,” she added.
The book illuminates a range of both hot topics and persistent theoretical and doctrinal issues while equipping students to thoughtfully engage these tools in their own practice of law, including immigration, rights of indigenous peoples, counterterrorism and human rights, disparities in access to health care, and the right to housing, while also exploring fundamental issues of federalism, sovereignty, judicial review and legal ethics.
The second edition is updated to reflect the current US political landscape as well as the enduring value of the human rights framework. New examples focus on lead contamination of drinking water and disparities in access to health care. The second edition explores how, even in the midst of seismic shifts in US politics, human rights continue to offer a powerful normative frame of individual rights and government obligations, as well as important strategies to complement more traditional litigation and advocacy approaches.
Adler Calls for LGBT Movement to Change Course in Gay Priori
Many legal issues that greatly impact the lives of the LGBT community’s most marginalized members — especially those who are transgender, homeless, underage or non-white — often go unnoticed, argues Professor Libby Adler in her new book, Gay Priori: A Queer Critical Legal Studies Approach to Law Reform (Duke University Press). Adler is calling for the LGBT community, which she says currently focuses on a narrow array of reform objectives — namely, same-sex marriage, antidiscrimination protections and hate crimes statutes — to change directions, with a focus on better meeting the needs of all LGBT people.
“This current approach is too narrow,” says Adler, a member of the Northeastern University School of Law faculty who has written extensively on sexuality, gender, family and children. “The emphasis on equal rights flattens LGBT identities, perpetuates the uneven distribution of resources such as safety, housing, health and wealth, and limits the capacity for advocates to imagine change.”
To combat these effects, Adler says resources must be used to advocate for changes to low-profile legal conditions in such areas as foster care, contract law, shelter regulation and police discretion. A shift in perspective, Adler contends, will serve to open up a new world of reform possibilities.
For more information, and to order the book directly from Duke University Press at a 30 percent discount, please visit dukeupress.edu/gay-priori and enter the coupon code E18ADLER during checkout.
Hartzog Calls for Reframing Privacy Law in Privacy’s Blueprint
Every day, internet users interact with technologies designed to undermine their privacy. Social media apps, surveillance technologies and the internet of things are all built in ways that make it hard to guard personal information. And the law says this is okay because it is up to users to protect themselves — even when the odds are deliberately stacked against them.
In Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies, Professor Woodrow Hartzog pushes back against this state of affairs, arguing that the law should require software and hardware makers to respect privacy in the design of their products. “This is a book about the technology design decisions that affect our privacy,” says Hartzog, who is a professor of law and computer science. “It’s about going beyond scrutinizing what gets done with our personal information and confronting the designs that enable privacy violations. And it’s about how everyone — companies, lawmakers, advocates, educators, and users — can contribute to and interact with the design of privacy-relevant technologies.”
Current legal doctrine treats technology as though it were value-neutral: only the user decides whether it functions for good or ill. But this is not so. As Hartzog explains, popular digital tools are designed to expose people and manipulate users into disclosing personal information.
Against the often self-serving optimism of Silicon Valley and the inertia of tech evangelism, Hartzog contends that privacy gains will come from better rules for products, not users. The current model of regulating use fosters exploitation. Privacy’s Blueprint aims to correct this by developing the theoretical underpinnings of a new kind of privacy law responsive to the way people actually perceive and use digital technologies. The law can demand encryption. It can prohibit malicious interfaces that deceive users and leave them vulnerable. It can require safeguards against abuses of biometric surveillance. It can, in short, make the technology itself worthy of our trust.
Meltsner Publishes Memoir on Civil Rights Career
Matthews Distinguished University Professor Mike Meltsner has published a new book, With Passion: An Activist Lawyer’s Journey (Twelve Tables Press, 2018). Meltsner, who grew up in a Depression-battered family tangled by a mortal secret, tells the improbable story of an unsung hero of the civil rights movement who thought of himself as a “miscast” lawyer, but ended up defending peaceful protesters, representing Mohammad Ali, suing Robert Moses, counseling Lenny Bruce, bringing the case that integrated hundreds of Southern hospitals, and was named “the principal architect of the death penalty abolition movement in the United States” by the City University of New York (CUNY) upon awarding him an honorary degree.
More than a meditation on often-frustrating legal efforts to fight inequality and racism, Meltsner’s memoir vividly recounts the life of a New York kid, struggling to make sense of coming of age amid the tumult of vast demographic and cultural changes in the city. Hired by Thurgood Marshall, Meltsner argued major civil rights cases for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
“The story of the civil rights legal campaigns of the mid-20th century has been well told, but on two fronts, Mike Meltsner’s sublimely written memoir recasts the familiar narrative,” said University Distinguished Professor Margaret Burnham, head of the law school’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. “Exploring the respective roles of litigation and community advocacy, this civil rights pioneer explains how organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund made the critical shift from the mostly race-based docket of the 1950s and early ’60s to one focusing on poverty, particularly in the criminal justice arena. And few books about the lawyering craft do a better job of conveying the peculiar artistry that emerges from the conjoiner of intellectual prowess, deep knowledge, strategic vision and emotional intensity. Like bright blossoms on a gritty New York City tree, Meltsner’s cases offer thrills, surprise and most importantly, hope. Beautiful stories exquisitely told.”
Meltsner turned his attention to academia in 1970, co-founding the clinical program at Columbia Law School, and then serving as dean of Northeastern University School of Law from 1979 until 1984. Meltsner’s books include a memoir, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer; Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment; Public Interest Advocacy; Reflections on Clinical Legal Education; and Short Takes, a novel. His 2011 play, “In Our Name: A Play of the Torture Years,” has been performed in New York and Boston to great acclaim. Among his many awards are a Guggenheim and an American Academy of Berlin Prize Fellowship.