Chicago-Kent College of Law:  Home Page Chicago-Kent College of Law:  Home Page    


August 2004
Sarah K. Harding
Associate Professor of Law and
Co-Director of the Institute for Law and the Humanities

A member of Chicago-Kent's faculty since 1995, Professor Sarah Harding has spent nine years in academia dividing her teaching and research interests between property law and comparative law.

Earning a BA in history from McGill University and law degrees from Dalhousie Law School, Canada (LLB), Oxford University (BCL) -- while studying on a Rhodes Scholarship -- and Yale Law School (LLM) provided Harding with a diverse legal education and a natural curiosity for different legal systems. More recently, she spent a year researching and writing in Australia, giving her valuable insight into yet another major common law legal system.

One of Harding's recent law review articles -- Comparative Reasoning and Judicial Review, 28 Yale Journal of International Law 409 (2003) -- compares the Supreme Courts of the United States and Canada in their use of foreign law. "The U.S. Supreme Court rarely cites foreign law -- I think the court is uncertain about its value, though that is changing," she says. "The Canadian court on the other hand has always very openly embraced foreign law."

This contrast in attitudes to foreign law might suggest deeper differences in how each high court approaches judicial review, says Harding.

"It may be the case that being more open to foreign law is part and parcel of a court's interest in actively engaging with other legal institutions, in particular legislatures and lower courts," she suggests. "In the United States, the Supreme Court seems to be more concerned about protecting its jurisdiction against intrusions from Congress or other courts, while the Canadian high court is open to a dialogic relationship with other domestic legal institutions."

During the 2002-03 academic year, Harding was a research fellow at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. She used her time there to research topics from another of her primary areas of scholarly interest, property law. She began research on a variety of property-related papers, in particular one examining changing temporal limitations in property law, but she also continued her research and writing in cultural property, an area in which she has widely published.

Harding explains that much of her cultural property scholarship has focused on the return of artifacts to indigenous peoples and the importance of this to the survival of indigenous cultures.

"I think the problem is that much of the value of Native American cultural property is now a product of its ethnographic status as opposed to whatever its original purpose might have been," says Harding. "As a consequence, it's hard to know what is important and for what reasons. In particular, I think many culturally significant artifacts are closely identified with specific individuals or families, and yet they have come to be recognized as broader cultural icons. The return of such artifacts can create tensions with tribal communities."

Harding addresses this issue in her recent article, Cultural Property and the Limitations of Preservation, 25 Law & Policy 17 (2003), in which, for the first time, she takes a cautionary view of the large and growing body of preservation and repatriation legislation.

"My latest article poses a hint of caution," she notes. "We must recognize that preserving cultural artifacts or structures is not always a good thing. The moment we decide to preserve a thing or place, the meaning of that thing often becomes entrenched or static. There's a hazard in creating a tourist industry around any and everything we think is significant."

Despite this new critical perspective, Harding still believes that preservation of cultural objects is of great importance. The looting of the Iraqi National Museum in the days following the invasion of Baghdad by U.S.-led forces is a recent case in point.

"I think that was a huge loss for a nation in turmoil," she says. "Nations tend to focus on objects of significance during times of upheaval. It was a blow to the nation's identity at a crucial time."

Harding's educational and professional travels have led her around the globe, giving her plenty of fuel for her areas of research and writing. But for all her travel, she says, the place she feels most comfortable is not a tangible location, but the academic environment in which she has spent most of her adult life.

At Chicago-Kent, Harding teaches property law, legal philosophy, comparative law and comparative constitutional law, and she is co-director of the law school's Institute for Law and the Humanities. On the research front, she is working on combining her interests in property and comparative law by comparing different constitutional approaches to the protection of property rights. She is also expanding her work in comparative law by examining the nature of judicial reasoning in an increasingly global climate.

"A comparative perspective is crucial because it naturally encourages an appreciation for alternative methods and solutions, and in doing so provides a critical lens through which to view our own legal system," she says. "What might have once appeared to be an objectively correct legal solution begins to look more subjective, requiring constant discussion and refinement."


Search Professor Harding's Publications:
Advanced publication search
(Includes all C-K professors)



  Webmail Login              Updated May 12, 2006     Office of Public Affairs     Contact Us