BY STEPHANIE YOUNG
Harvard Law School awarded Professor Jeannie Suk ‘02 tenure in October, making her the first Asian-American woman to gain tenure at the school.
One of the most striking features of Suk’s work is the sheer diversity and depth of her research interests, from criminal law to intellectual property to domestic violence. Dean Martha Minow lauded the interdisciplinary nature of her work.
“Jeannie Suk’s imaginative, probing, and sometimes provocative scholarship builds bridges between criminal and family law, between law and the humanities, and between theory and practice,” Minow wrote in a statement announcing Suk’s tenure.
In an interview with the Harvard Law Record, Suk described herself as “multilingual”: she said she enjoys switching between different subject areas and following several ideas. Once she has explored a topic, she moves on to other areas, but does not “close the file” in her intellectual life, she said.
She is currently working on her next book. which will examine the development of the concept of trauma and how it connects with and influences many different areas of the law. Her work as a Guggenheim Fellow and Humanities Fellow at Harvard College this past academic year allowed her to research the topic and its intersections with other disciplines.
Many have celebrated Suk for being the first Asian-American woman professor to receive tenure at the Law School. While acknowledging the importance of her accomplishments to her ethnic community, Suk says she finds the Harvard Law environment supportive and inclusive and feels comfortable among her peers and colleagues.
She described a very different experience in her time as a student here. When Suk attended Harvard Law, each 1L was just one member of a 120-student section with far less social cohesion and no feeling of, as she put it, “esprit de corps.” Now she observes strong section solidarity. Section Four students from past years now feel an immediate connection with her as its leader this year, she said.
Suk, a dancer since childhood, has also connected with many students with backgrounds in the fine arts. Her experience as a disciplined ballerina served, she says, as her “first training ground for aiming for excellence.”
More specifically, her history has informed her current interests in law and the arts. In a recent article for the Stanford Law Review, she advocated that copyright protection be extended to fashion. New York Senator Charles Schumer’s most recent fashion copyright bill draws from the work done by Suk and co-author C. Scott Hemphill, a professor at Columbia Law.
Suk is currently co-teaching a course on Performing Arts and the Law with acclaimed dancer Damian Woetzel.