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