Esteemed Scholars Join Harvard Schools as Radcliffe Professors

Sociologist Devah Pager and Human Rights Scholar Kathryn Sikkink Appointed to Harvard Kennedy School; Islamic Law Expert Intisar A. Rabb to Harvard Law School
Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
October 11, 2013

Three new professors are joining the Harvard faculty as Radcliffe Professors, announced Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

These professorships, which are offered in conjunction with tenured positions at the University, help recruit pioneering interdisciplinary scholars to the Harvard faculty. Radcliffe Professors spend four semesters as fellows at the Institute during their first five years at the University—the prospect of two full years of independent research has attracted these scholars, who join a distinguished cohort of Radcliffe Professors.

Photo courtesy of Devah PagerPhoto courtesy of Devah PagerDevah Pager was named a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe, with joint appointments as a professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. On leave for 2013–2014, and previously at Princeton University, she conducts research that exposes racial inequality in labor markets and the criminal justice system. Pager has undertaken field experiments to study how the race and criminal background of equally qualified individuals affect hiring decisions in the low-wage labor market. This research has already yielded one book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and numerous articles. Currently Pager is collecting data on a cohort of job seekers—following them for a year—to determine how race, gender, and experiences with discrimination affect how and where they apply for work. She expects her first year as a Radcliffe fellow will be an ideal time to analyze, reflect on, and write about that data.

Pager looks forward to being part of a multidisciplinary group of scholars at the Radcliffe Institute. “As recent director of a joint degree program in social policy, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to bridging graduate programs in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science so that students experience a more integrated curriculum and have the ability to speak fluently across disciplines,” she said. “These kinds of multidisciplinary communities are very close to my heart.”

Photo courtesy of Kathryn SikkinkPhoto courtesy of Kathryn SikkinkKathryn Sikkink, most recently of the University of Minnesota, comes to Cambridge as a Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute and a member of the Harvard Kennedy School faculty. A political scientist working in the area of international relations, particularly human rights issues, she is the author of The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (W. W. Norton, 2012), which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the WOLA-Duke Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America. The findings she presents in the book show that holding state officials accountable for human rights violations can in fact contribute to the improvement of human rights.

Sikkink already has plans for her time at the Fellowship Program: she will work on a book about Latin America and international human rights. “Historians date the birth of human rights to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, but Latin American countries signed the intergovernmental American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man a few months earlier. I’m curious about why no attention has ever been devoted to this contribution,” she said. “It’s something that’s interested me for a long time but I haven’t had a chance to dedicate myself to researching and writing about it full-time.” Sikkink will begin this work at the Institute in the fall of 2014.

Photo courtesy of Intisar A. RabbPhoto courtesy of Intisar A. RabbAn additional Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professorship at Radcliffe brings Intisar A. Rabb, a scholar in Islamic law and legal history, to the Harvard Law School faculty, where she will also direct the Islamic Legal Studies Program. Rabb is no stranger to Harvard: In 2009 she joined the law school community as an affiliate in research at the Islamic Legal Studies Program, a position which lasted until the summer of 2012, when she transitioned to visiting associate professor of law. She was also a faculty fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in 2011–2013. Rabb is creating a database to gather legislation, court cases, and commentary on Islamic law.

“I’m very excited about coming to Radcliffe,” said Rabb, who is looking forward to developing the database and focusing on the legal history aspect of her work, particularly courts and judicial procedure in Islamic law. Rabb notes that because Islamic law is a deeply history-oriented tradition (much like American courts’ reliance on precedence), Harvard’s resources will be invaluable to expanding the record of litigants in early Islamic courts. Most recently Rabb taught Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and law at New York University School of Law. Her book The Benefit of Doubt: Legal Maxims in Early Islamic Criminal Law is forthcoming in 2014 from Cambridge University Press.

“I’m thrilled that the Institute was instrumental in attracting to Harvard these three scholars. I look forward to seeing how they will push the boundaries of their respective disciplines, as well as how they will contribute to the Institute’s intellectual community,” said Radcliffe Dean Lizabeth Cohen, who is also the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Cohen thanked David T. Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy and the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Martha Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and a professor of law at Harvard Law School, for the cooperative work and coordinated effort to bring these extraordinary minds to the Harvard faculty.

Other scholars currently holding Radcliffe Professorships include Annette Gordon-Reed, a Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, a professor at Harvard Law School, and a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Nancy E. Hill, a Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute and a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and the most recent appointee, Tamar Herzog, the Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute and the Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs.

For prior Radcliffe Professors—Joanna Aizenberg and Mahzarin R. Banaji—the fellowship years at the Institute were instrumental to the major contributions they have made in their fields and well beyond. Aizenberg, who is now the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at Harvard’s School for Engineering and Applied Sciences, worked with mathematicians to establish principles for designing artificial systems that exhibit unprecedented biomimetic functionality. Banaji, now the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology at Harvard, started the research on her transformative book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Delacorte Press, 2013) during her time as a fellow.

“The accomplishments of past and current Radcliffe Professors are testaments to the value of protected time and space to pursue pathbreaking work,” said Cohen. “The Institute is dedicated to providing our new Radcliffe Professors with the same opportunities to generate and share ideas so that they, too, can change what we know and how we think and act.”

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