Legal scholar reframes the question to find an answer
By Jennifer Bryon Owen and Susan Soper | Emory School of Law | June 11, 2013
Mary L. Dudziak thinks that to get to the heart of a matter — in law and in scholarship — it can be helpful to start at the edges. To understand domestic law, she looks to its global impact; to understand contemporary war, she looks to its past. It is often at the borders between inside and outside, past and present, that we can more fully see the nature of the core.
Dudziak's career has proceeded a bit like her way of thinking. She didn't follow a straight path to law school and academics, but instead wanted to be a writer. In order to write, she needed to learn about the world. A commitment to social justice led her to work in the disability rights movement. The movement's effort at legal reform inspired her to go to law school. And then her law and graduate work led her right back to writing.
Today, Dudziak (pronounced du-jäck) is a renowned legal historian and author. She seeks to have an impact on social policy in her writing, but her approach is to question the way problems are thought about. Her most engaging scholarship comes not simply from the conclusions she draws, but from reconceiving essential questions.
Dudziak arrived at Emory last summer from the University of Southern California, where she was the Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Professor of Law, History and Political Science. She is now Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law and director of the newly created Project on War and Security in Law, Culture and Society. A graduate of Yale Law School with a PhD in American studies also from Yale, she clerked for Judge Sam J. Ervin III, of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and began her teaching career as a professor of law at the University of Iowa. She has also served as the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor of American Legal History at Duke Law School and as the William Nelson Cromwell Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard.