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Meet Our Visiting Scholars: 2017-2018

Please use the links on the left hand side to see information about our past visiting scholars. More information on the ABF's visiting scholar opportunties can be found here.

Katherine Turk, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Photo and bio courtesy of UNC

Katherine Turk specializes in the histories of women, gender and sexuality; law, labor and social movements; and the twentieth century United States. Her first book, Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), examines how sex equality law has remade the world of work, eroding some inequalities and affirming others.  Her current projects include a history of the National Organization for Women, an article on men and masculinity in feminist movements, and, with Leandra Zarnow, a study of the origins and intellectual trajectory of the field of women’s history.

Photo and bio courtesy of Northwestern University

Justin Simard, Jack Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University

Justin Simard is the Jack Miller Center Post-Doctoral Teaching and Research Scholar. He received his J.D. and Ph.D. in History from The University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the Center for Legal Studies he was a Fellow at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy at the University at Buffalo. He is a historian of the legal profession, and his research traces how the routine work of American lawyers shaped the development of capitalism in the nineteenth century.

Photo courtesy of St. Edmund's College

Sandra Brunnegger, Fellow in Law and Anthropology at St. Edmund's College

Sandra Brunnegger is a legal anthropologist. Her research interests span human rights, indigenous legal systems and practices, everyday conceptions of justice, transitional justice, violence, environmental issues and social movements. Ethnographically, her research focuses on Latin America, with particular emphasis on Colombia. Her teaching interests include development, political and legal anthropology and international law.

Photo and bio courtesy of NYU Abu Dhabi

Swethaa Ballakrishnen, Postdoctoral Associate at New York University Abu Dhabi

Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen is a socio-legal scholar whose research interrogates the intersections between globalization and institutional stratification across a range of contexts. In addition to her position at NYUAD, she is an affiliated research fellow at the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession. Dr. Ballakrishnen is a graduate of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (India) and Harvard Law School. She is qualified to practice law in the State of New York as well as Maharashtra & Goa, India. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2015.

Nate Ela

Ela is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies the interaction between legal, economic, and environmental change in urban settings. Ela’s dissertation examines the periodic emergence and disappearance of urban agriculture as a form of redistributive social policy in Chicago since the 1890s. A past project explained how human rights litigation in U.S. courts created dilemmas for social movement activists in the Philippines. His writing has appeared in Law & Social Inquiry, the Fordham Urban Law Journal, and Social Policy. Ela holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

Stephanie Didwania

Stephanie Holmes Didwania's research is in empirical law and economics, and focuses on the criminal justice system. She is particularly interested in studying how pretrial events and actors influence criminal case outcomes. Her current work examines prosecutorial behavior and bias. Didwania received her Ph.D. in Managerial Economics and Strategy from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 2016, and her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2009. From 2010 to 2011, Didwania worked as a law clerk for Judge Richard A. Paez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Boyce Robert Owens, Civic Consulting Alliance

Owens completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago in 2017, writing a dissertation on refugee admission law in federal courts. The focus of his academic work is how law works as a knowledge system, especially judge-made law in the powerful U.S. federal courts. He is currently a senior associate at the Civic Consulting Alliance working with the Chicago Police Department on their plan for reform. In graduate school , Robert was an associate editor of the American Journal of Sociology and taught seminars in “Sociology of Law” and “Self, Culture, and Society.” His scholarly work has appeared in American Sociologist, Journal of Classical Sociology, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciencesand Law & Social Inquiry. Robert Owens can be reached at .

Photo and bio courtesy of the University of California, Irvine.

David John Frank, School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine

Frank is Professor of Sociology and Courtesy Professor of Education and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He studies changes in the cultural infrastructure of world society, with special focus on global environmental protection, the university and the knowledge society, and the criminal regulation of sex. He holds degrees in sociology from Stanford and the University of Chicago. Before coming to Irvine in 2002, he was on the faculty at Harvard University.

Photo and bio courtesy of the University of Connecticut.

David Embrick, Sociology Department and African Studies Institute, University of Connecticut 

Embrick is an associate professor in the Sociology Department and African Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. He spent a decade at Loyola University Chicago in the Sociology Department. He received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2006.  He is a former American Sociological Association Minority Fellow, Past-President of the Southwestern Sociological Association, and current Vice President-Elect of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.  In addition, Dr. Embrick serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Humanity & Society (the official journal of the Association for Humanist Society), Founding Co-Editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, the newest ASA sponsored journal of the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and Associate Editor of Social Problems. Dr. Embrick’s research has centered largely on the impact of contemporary forms of racism on people of color.  While most of his research is one what he has labeled “diversity ideology” and inequalities in the business world, he has published on race and education, the impact of schools-welfare-and prisons on people of color, and issues of sex discrimination. Dr. Embrick has published in a number of journals including American Behavioral Scientist, Critical Sociology, Race and Society, Sex Roles, Sociological Forum, and Symbolic Interaction, among others. He has been invited to give talks on his work in over 60 venues, both academic and public.


Leslie Abramson is a film scholar who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She has taught law and cinema at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Abramson is the author of Hitchcock & the Anxiety of Authorship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Her essays have been published in Hitchcock and Adaptation (2014), American Cinema of the 1960s (2008), In the Limelight and Under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity (2011), New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s (2012)and various journals. She has presented papers on law and cinema at the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities Conference, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conferences, and elsewhere. Abramson is currently researching representations of the law in silent American cinema. Her study investigates how silent films originated and disseminated defining moving images of American law with regard to judicial processes and proceedings, legal documents, non-uniformed practitioners of the law—specifically, judges and lawyers—and the association among the citizenry, the courtroom, and critical legal issues. Leslie Abramson can be reached at .

Photo and bio courtesy of Indiana University Bloomington

Winnifred Sullivan, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University Bloomingtom

Winnifred Sullivan is interested in religion as a broad and complex social and cultural phenomenon that both generates law and is regulated by law. Her particular research interest is in understanding the phenomenology of religion under the modern rule of law. She has training in law and in religious studies and has taught both in law school and in religion departments. Sullivan practiced law after graduating from law school before returning to graduate school to study religion. Her training in the academic study of religion is in two fields, American religious history and the comparative study of religion. She focuses on the intersection of religion and law in the U.S. within a broader comparative field, both theoretically and cross-culturally. Within legal studies, her work falls broadly within socio-legal and critical legal studies.

Photo and bio courtesy of Northwestern University

Karen Alter, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

Karen Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center for Excellence, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, and the co-director Research Group on Global Capitalism and Law at the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University. Alter’s current research investigates the legalization and judicialization of international relations in Europe, Africa, Latin America and with respect to economic, human rights and mass atrocities.  Alter is author of the award-winning book  The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights(Princeton University Press, 2014), and also International Legal Transplants: Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2017, with Laurence Helfer),The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009) andEstablishing the Supremacy of European Law(Oxford University press, 2001), and more than forty-five articles and book chapters on the politics of international law, comparative international courts, and international regime complexity.  She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (Oxford University Press, 2014) and International Court Authority (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Photo and bio courtesy of UIC

Patrisia Macias-Rojas, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago

Patrisia Macias-Rojas recently joined the Global Urban Immigration Cluster Initiative at UIC.  Her research interests are in race, law, and migration.  Her current project, which draws on ethnographic and historical methods, contributes to the interdisciplinary field of law and society, particularly scholarship concerned with the intersections of criminal justice and immigration enforcement. She is the author of From Deportation to Prison: The Politics of Immigration Enforcement in Post-Civil Rights America (New York University Press, 2016).  Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Andrew Mellon Program in Latin American Sociology, and the Social Science Research Council.

Photo and bio courtesy of North Central College

Alyx Mark, Department of Political Science, North Central College

Alyx Mark is an Assistant Professor of Political Science here at North Central College. Professor Mark’s work focuses on the American civil legal system, the ways in which individuals interact with legal institutions, and the relationship between the federal courts and Congress. Her current research, which examines the civic and political effects of interacting with legal services offices, has received the support of the National Science Foundation and the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Her work appears in, or is forthcoming at, Denver University Law ReviewHastings Law ReviewLaw and Society Review, and the Journal of Law and Courts. She has previously worked at the Brookings Institution as a Research Consultant in Governance Studies. She completed her Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and her B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville.

Robert Vargas, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago

Robert Vargas is a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Sociology, and founding Director of the Crime, Law, and Politics Lab. His research examines how redistricting laws, bureaucracies, and public policies shape the conditions of cities, with a particular focus on violence and health care. His award winning book "Wounded City: Violent Turf Wars in a Chicago Barrio" shows the relationship between ward boundary redistricting and block-level violence in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. With funding from an NSF Early Career award, Professor Vargas will continue his research on the political economy of urban violence through a quantitative historical project on Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. A Chicago native, Professor Vargas also consults on numerous local policy initiatives for foundations and nonprofit organizations.

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