Congratulations to the 2015 Law and Society Association Award Winners!

The awards are presented at the LSA Annual Meeting
Association Luncheon and Award Ceremony
in Seattle on Saturday, May 30 at noon.


Winners and Basis for Award

Harry J. Kalven, Jr. Prize 

For empirical scholarship that has contributed to the advancement of research in law and society.




Malcolm Feeley
University of California, Berkeley

Malcolm Feeley’s work on the counterintuitive and counterproductive effects of punishment policy has inspired generations of socio-legal scholars. He has repeatedly documented the realities of criminal justice in America (and beyond) as well as the effects of legal reforms.  Starting with his classic work The Process is the Punishment (1979, republished 1992) and continuing through his new research on public prisons (“The Unconvincing Case against Private Prisons,” Indiana Law Journal 2014), Feeley has been in the forefront of our field in showing how the criminal justice system works in practice. He has also demonstrated repeatedly that well-intentioned reforms often produce worrying results and that much-criticized reforms are not necessarily as ill-advised as they look.  

In Process is the Punishment, for example, Feeley argued that the due process revolution that made trials fairer also made them more grueling and less predictable for criminal defendants, pushing them into the less costly and also less fair system of plea bargains.  The real punishment, he argued, was not the ultimate sentence but rather the cost of the pre-trial process, which frequently resulted in substantial penalties due to the accumulated costs of bail bondsmen, lost wages, and even job loss for the guilty and innocent alike. He also showed, in his historical work on this subject, that plea-bargaining is the direct result of changes in criminal procedure, not the result of extra-legal factors.  

Feeley launched a provocative and productive line of work on “the new penology” in his writings with coauthor Jonathan Simon.   In his work with coauthor Ed Rubin, Feeley showed that activist judges drew upon standards articulated by the American Correctional Association and the federal prisons to reform corrupt state prisons.  Judges, in this account, act as policy makers rather than merely as interpreters of the law.  Throughout his scholarship on forms of punishment and their social causes, Feeley alternates interview-based and observational research with deep dives into the archives.  

Feeley has also taught us a great deal about women criminals, who used to be far more numerous than they are now, and much closer to men in their rates of offending in pre-modern society.  His various works on this topic attribute the decline in female criminality to changing patterns of gender relations in both employment and family.  He first published on this subject in 1991 in the Law and Society Review and has revisited the topic with new cross-cultural data on numerous occasions since, most recently in 2010 in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.  

In his most recent (and continuing) work about private prisons, he builds on his earlier, historical explorations of prison innovation.  The standard view is to condemn private prisons, arguing that they circumvent public values by usurping a core state function.   Feeley shows how many valuable innovations in prison management have come from private prisons, and argues that the specific control and governance mechanisms that cut across public and private sector correctional facilities are more important in accounting for the treatment of prisoners than a prison’s public or private status.  

Citations to Feeley’s work are piled high not only in the literature on criminology – but also across socio-legal studies more generally.  Feeley’s research into the penal process has generated insights that have stood the test of time, and his new work continues to fascinate and delight our field with each of his new and surprising findings.

CalavitaKitty Calavita
University of California, Irvine

Kitty Calavita has explored the perils and promises of immigration in a body of work that has not only informed theory and policy on immigration, but that has also generated important insights for the law and society field as a whole.    She richly deserves the Kalven Prize for her scholarship on contradictions and opportunities in immigration policy across time and across countries.   

Calavita’s first book, U.S. Immigration Law and the Control of Labor, 1820-1924 (1984), revealed her ability to probe complex materials and find non-obvious answers.  As she argued, contrary to popular perception, the rise of immigration control in the US was not the result of nativist activism or even the agitation of organized labor, but was instead accomplished only when a toxic mix of chronic unemployment, scientific racism and the judgment of US business that it no longer needed immigrant labor resulted in sharp limitations on who could enter the United States.   Economics, in short, trumped activism, but through multiple lines of influence.  

Calavita continued her pattern of seeing policy as the confluence of multiple vectors of causation in her second book, on the Bracero program:   Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration and the I.N.S. (1992, republished with a new forward in 2010).    The Bracero program brought farmworkers to the US on temporary contracts and sent them back to Mexico when they were no longer needed.    While in the US, they were paid low wages and treated abysmally, revealing that the open door that allowed immigrant farmworkers in legally did not mean that they were allowed to live like US citizens.   Bringing agency to the analysis of structure, Calavita traced the decisions of INS agents as they did their work in administering the program, showing how key individuals shaped the program as much as did the structural conditions of the sort she had previously highlighted in her earlier work.   Linking history, structure and individual discretion into a coherent web of understanding, Calavita modelled for us all how to develop an elegant explanation of a complex phenomenon.

Her work on immigration moved overseas, and she researched immigration policy in Spain and Italy for her third book on the subject:  Immigrants at the Margins: Law, Race, and Exclusion in Southern Europe (2005).    Her comparative analysis revealed that the US was not alone in enacting ambivalence about immigrant labor into contradictory policy.  In Southern Europe as well, an appetite by business for cheap labor combined with public pressures for social exclusion and created a system for immigrant labor that gave them legal work with second-class status.  

Calavita generated many articles from these projects and more for the top journals in law and society.  She also branched out into different areas of sociolegal inquiry with the same deft touch.  In her newest book (with Valerie Jenness), Calavita turns from immigration to prisoner grievances but continues her nuanced analysis of how law takes shape on the ground.  Appealing to Justice is a rich account of prisoner appeals that shows how inmates make extensive use of their right to appeal even though they rarely achieve the outcomes they seek.  Through creative analysis of the narratives of grievances, Calavita and Jenness give voice to prisoners and challenge much conventional wisdom on disputing.

Throughout her work, Calavita has modeled a subtle and valuable form of sociolegal exploration.   Using archives, ethnography, interviews and statistics, she has drawn complex portraits of people who live under shifting legal regimes.   In her multiple studies of immigration, Calavita has shown how it was simply impossible for immigrants to remain “legal” because of the ways that the rules were drawn up and enforced.  Even when immigrants were officially welcomed, they were welcomed ambivalently – and came to be trapped in a legal space between invitation and rejection. As Calavita shows through a fine body of work, law as it is enforced on the ground is often the result of agents, agitators and structures that pull in conflicting directions – teaching us all that law marks conflict with contradiction.

J. Willard Hurst Prize 

For the best book in socio-legal history published in 2014.

SharafiMitra Sharafi
University of Wisconsin

Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772–1947
Cambridge University Press, 2014

Sharafi's book is a compelling study of Parsi legal culture in India and Burma from the late 18th century to India's independence from British rule.  The book is based on impressive and extensive use of archival resources.  These are carefully mined to produce a rich and detailed portrait of this ethnoreligious community's deep interactions with colonial law, the legal system, and the legal profession.  As Sharafi demonstrates, these interactions helped create a legal culture and community that was surprisingly invested in the formal legal system under colonial rule.  This, in turn, helped shape both Parsi law and community identity.

This book expertly explores key law and society themes, such as legal pluralism under colonial rule, legal culture and consciousness, the disputing process, and the legal profession and its significance.  Sharafi also offers deep insights into the changing role of women as legal actors and legal subjects.  She examines with depth, precision, and great narrative skill legal issues including marriage and family law, inheritance law, and cultural and racial identity and the law.  Her examination spans case law, legislation and legislative reform, and also draws from biographies, personal papers, and other evidence reflecting the legal consciousness of her subjects.  The difficulty and scope of her effort, as well as her impressive success in uncovering and bringing to life obscure and difficult-to-access records, especially impressed the committee.  It also admired her ability to tell a lively, engaging story about a community that has not yet been the focus of very much sociolegal scholarship. 

Honorable Mentions:

Sophia Z. Lee, The Workplace Constitution: From the New Deal to the New Right
Cambridge University Press, 2014

Ekaterina Pravilova, A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia
Princeton University Press, 2014

Herbert Jacob
Book Prize

For the best book in law and society scholarship published in 2014.

ObasogieOsagie Obasogie
University of California, Hastings

Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race through the Eyes of the Blind
Stanford University Press, 2014

Obasogie’s groundbreaking book sets out to probe the nature of race, taking on the prevailing theory that perceptions of race arise out of visual recognition of difference—in other words, that race speaks for itself, a trope that Obasogie refers to as “’race’ ipsa loquitur.” The book challenges this theory, and its legal corollary—the doctrine of colorblindedness—through a truly fresh, highly creative, and thought-provoking research question: How do blind people think about race? Obasogie interviews over one hundred people who have been blind since birth—and, for comparison, a smaller group of sighted subjects—and his careful qualitative analysis shows that the blind, like the sighted, experience race ‘visually’, even though the imagery clearly could not have been acquired through sight. In the fascinating personal vignettes quoted in the book, the interviewees reveal the ways in which they have been socialized to think of race as a relevant visual category, how they are taught about the importance of visual race via pressures from family, friends, and other important social agents, and how the visual category of race comes to shape their own behavior and actions. Obasogie’s well-structured empirical study is complemented by story vignettes, ranging from the protests against the verdict in Johannes Mehserle’s trial for the killing of Oscar Grant, through the public reaction excoriating LeBron James’ decision to leave his home team and move to Miami, to a 1924 scandalous marriage annulment case in which the bride, allegedly fraudulent in hiding her mixed-race heritage, was required to undress in front of a jury so that her race would ‘speak’ about the outcome of the case. In lucid, persuasive style, Obasogie argues that a prior question—how does race become something that is seen?—must be posed in order to understand the social interactions that render race as visually obvious and significant. Moreover, Obasogie’s project not only develops the study of race within the law and society field, but also bridges an important gap between Empirical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory, revealing the impressive possibilities of crafting a research design that addresses important questions through a factual inquiry and from a deeply critical perspective—a feat that is accomplished by asking the right question and answering it with insight and rigor. A true tour de force, beautifully written, lucid and persuasive, Blinded by Sight offers an important socio-legal critique of race both as a nonexistent construction and as an ontological entity, and by extension, as a limited legal category whose existence should be problematized, rather than assumed or negated.

Honorable Mentions:

Charles R. Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel, Pulled Over, University of Chicago Press, 2014

Sandra Levitsky, Caring for Our Own, Oxford University Press, 2014

Special Mention:

James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project, The Wrong Carlos, Columbia University Press, 2014

John Hope Franklin

For the best article on race, racism and the law, published within last two years.

GreenD. Wendy Greene
Samford University-Cumberland School of Law

Categorically Black, White, or Wrong: ‘Misperception Discrimination’ and the State of Title VII Protection, University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 2013

In this novel and important article, Professor Greene exposes an inconspicuous, categorically wrong movement within anti discrimination law. Federal courts have denied Title VII protection to individuals who allege “categorical discrimination,” people who suffer differential treatment because they were misidentified as belonging to a protected group.  Under these guidelines, a self-identified Christian who experiences discrimination because she is misperceived as a Muslim, say, cannot assert an actionable claim under Title VII.  In these cases, discriminating actions are seen as beyond the scope of Title VII protections. Professor Greene advances a rigorous, well-reasonsed, and convincing cases adjuring that  the judicially created prerequisites to Title VII protection are misguided because they impose an unnecessary “actuality requirement” on Title VII plaintiffs who unambiguously suffered differential treatment. 

Law and Society
Article Prize

For exceptional scholarship in socio-legal studies published as an article.

YoungKathryne Young
Stanford University

Everyone Knows the Game: Legal Consciousness in the Hawaiian Cockfight
Law & Society Review, 2014

This article integrated creative ethnographic methods and insightful theorizing to examine how Hawaiians involved in illegal cockfighting think about law and its enforcement. It convincingly illustrates how order and disorder are created and perceived in dynamic processes where everyone comes to know rules of “the game”. It explores how cockfights are rituals where police and participants play certain roles that shape and sustain how participants view legitimate behavior. The article was creatively conceived, beautifully written and precisely theorized.

Honorable Mention:

James L. Gibson, Milton Lodge, Benjamin Woodson; Losing, but Accepting: Legitimacy, Positivity Theory, and the Symbols of Judicial Authority, Law & Society Review 2014

Law and Society
International Prize

For significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the field of law and society.

ShamirRonen Shamir
Tel Aviv University

Professor Ronen Shamir has published three monographs and dozens of articles that have had significant influence on the law and society field as well as sociology, history, middle eastern studies and anthropology.  Shamir’s projects locate law in the historical struggle of political forces within, before, and beyond the nation state.  His first book, Managing Legal Uncertainty: Elite Lawyers in the New Deal (1995) explored how legal realism moved from a minor but much ballyhooed movement in legal academia to a significant role in the building the legal infrastructure of the New Deal.  Shamir used a close study of these elite lawyers in action to illuminate the fraught debates about legal realism (and about the nature of law) animated by World War II and the holocaust and continuing to echo in the 1980s and 1990s in debates about legal determinacy.  His second book, The Colonies of Law: Colonialism, Zionism and Law in Early Mandate Palestine (2000), once again takes a close look at a particular jurisprudence and group of lawyers, to understand the formation of the nation state, and the larger antinomies of colonialism, religion, and race; this time in the context of mandatory Palestine and the Zionist state building effort.  In his most recent book, Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine (2013), Shamir deploys Actor/Network theory, a framework of growing significance in the law and society field, to examine how the technical assemblage of the electrical grid in Palestine operates as much as legal and political institutions in shaping the state and its lines of conflict.  Shamir is also the author of dozens of articles addressing issues of globalization, neoliberal governance, and corporate social responsibility.  Shamir is a socio-legal scholar and social theorist who has brought empirical light to basic issues of normative and social ordering by bringing little known and telling historical examples into the historical record and general discussion. Shamir has done this in a region of the world and on a historical topic in which the risks of free investigation and expression have become increasingly manifest.

Stanton Wheeler
Mentorship Award

As an outstanding mentor for graduate, professional or undergraduate students who are working on issues of law and society.

SilbySusan Silbey
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Susan Silbey is truly a great, an outstanding teacher and mentor, both to her students and her colleagues. Colleagues described Susan’s qualities with “Wisdom, energy, commitment, generosity, and enthusiasm have deeply affected our collective experience, transformed our academic work, and provided a model for academic life”.

Through her writing, teaching, and engagement in academic life, Susan models what it is to be a leader and valued contributor in the academic community. Susan demonstrated the great compassion and generosity that so many of us love and appreciate about her. She cares so much about helping and supporting students. She listens carefully to you, and works with you to help you find your unique voice and your passion. She demands excellence in scholarship, she is uncompromising in her standards, and she pushes you to develop your capacities for critical thinking.

The committee was especially impressed by arguments on Susan’s ethical attitude, such as “Allergic to pomposity and mystification, she has an abiding faith in the democratic nature of social science choices”.

Susan is guided by the belief that the techniques associated with good scholarship are not in-born talents possessed by a select few, but things that can be taught, learned, and perfected through practice. She serves as a model and a mentor for other women who wish to excel in their fields, and who, in so doing, will transcend socially imposed and internally enacted gender limitations. Susan is a woman who has transcended those limitations. It has been meaningful and formative for me to experience her fearless example.

Ronald Pipkin
Service Award

For sustained and extraordinary service to the Association.

KritzerBert Kritzer
University of Minnesota

Herbert M. Kritzer, known to all as Bert, has shown sustained and extraordinary service to the Law and Society Association for over 35 years. While serving on dozens of committees, the Board of Trustees, and as Editor of the Law & Society Review, he has been an advocate in promoting LSA’s work, recruiting new members and mentoring his students in socio-legal scholarship even when not serving in an official capacity. Bert was especially well known for his time and effort in bringing the journal into the digital age in his role as Editor of LSR. He was at the helm when it went from a self-published journal to an online submission and review system with Blackwell and then on to Wiley when he was on the publications committee. Today, he still is the first to offer advice and guidance with publication related policies. Outside of publications, Bert was the instrumental as chair for the local arrangement committee in helping the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting show off Minneapolis to LSA attendees and participants through a local reception and Fun Run route to name a few. Bert has been the most dedicated of members, a relentless ambassador for excellent scholarship and community.


For the dissertation that best represents outstanding work in law and society research in 2014.

LeachmanGwendolyn Leachman
University of Wisconsin

Institutions and Dominance within Social Movements: How Legal Strategies Shape the Agendas of Movements for Social Change, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Nominated by Lauren Edelman and Catherine Albiston, University of California, Berkeley

Gwendolyn Leachman’s winning dissertation examines the impact of litigation on a social movement’s dominant substantive goals and message. Instead of examining how social movements affect substantive law or how a movement’s legal tactics bring about social change, as others have done, Leachman explores how litigation affects the social movement itself. She investigates these dynamics through a case study of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement from 1985 to 2008. The study involves three phases of original empirical research, each of which investigates a potential mechanism that may privilege litigation over other tactics in its ability to set the LGBT movement’s primary substantive agenda. First, Leachman analyzes newspaper coverage of LGBT politics to determine which movement tactics have received the most media visibility. Second, she runs statistical analysis of LGBT organizations to determine which movement tactics have been most associated with organizational survival and stability. Third, she performs qualitative analysis of a subset of those LGBT organizations to examine variation in the strategy-formation processes used by primarily litigation-, lobbying-, or protest-based movement groups.

The media content analysis revealed that litigation received more news coverage than any other LGBT movement tactic, suggesting that litigation had greater visibility than other tactics. In addition, the statistical analysis revealed that the movement organizations that used litigation had greater survival rates than other types of LGBT movement organizations, suggesting that litigation has been a particularly stable feature of LGBT politics. The qualitative analysis of LGBT organizations revealed further insights into how litigation may influence the agendas of non-legal movement actors. Whereas litigating LGBT movement groups proactively pursued preplanned organizational priorities, protest groups formed their agendas reactively, focusing on the issues covered by the mainstream media. This phenomenon appears to have diverted protest groups away from their original priorities and toward the issues that the media found newsworthy. Taken together, these findings suggest that the media visibility and stability of social movement litigation may contribute to the prominence of litigation and cause legal goals to dominate the movement’s overall substantive agenda. Leachman describes this process as the “legalization” of a social movement’s agenda.

Honorable Mentions:

Milli Lake; Building the Rule of Law in Fragile States: The Role of External Actors in Shaping Institutional Responses to Mass Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa; nominated by Michael McCann, University of Washington

Maura Dykstra; Complicated Matters: Commercial Dispute Resolution in Qing Chongqing from 1750 to 1911; nominated by Teemu Ruskola, Emory Law School

Student Paper Prize

For the undergraduate paper that best represents outstanding work in law and society research.

MitchellMatthew Mitchell
University of Melbourne

Producing Black Collar Crime Through Discourse: The Changing Relationship Between State Law and the Catholic Church

Nominated by Jennifer Balint, University of Melbourne

Mitchell’s thesis, nominated by Jennifer Balint of the University of Melbourne, deploys Foucaultian discourse analysis and Bourdieuian field theory to illuminate the Australian state response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Mitchell opens by asking why the Australian state launched an investigative commission in 2013, when it had not done so at earlier points in the crisis, and he suggests that declining religious authority had left the Church with less symbolic capital to deploy in its own defense. He supports this conclusion via discourse analysis of Australian newspaper coverage of the Catholic Church in 2002-03 and 2012-13. Mitchell’s treatment of critic theory is masterful, and his empirical analysis is timely and likely to be of broad interest.

Honorable Mention:

Kendall Beeman; Special Education Litigation in Chicago: IDEA and Due Process in Conflict ; nominated by Joanna Grisinger, Northwestern University

Graduate Student
Paper Prize

For the graduate paper that best represents outstanding work in law and society research.

Hassan El Menyawi
New York University

The Great Reversal

Nominated by David Greenberg, New York University