Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, has been awarded a $168,376 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support a summer seminar for K-12 teachers and current full-time graduate students who intend to pursue a career in K-12 teaching. The gathering, which will be offered in the summer of 2011, will be the 15th such seminar that Sarat has taught.

Austin Sarat
Titled “Punishment, Politics and Culture,” the five-week event will examine three questions:  What is punishment and why do we punish as we do? What can we learn about politics, law, and culture in the United States from an examination of our practices of punishment? and What are the appropriate limits of punishment? (More information on the seminar is available at

“I’ve had a longstanding commitment to schoolteachers because my life was changed by them—and I say that realizing I sound embarrassingly melodramatic,” explained Sarat of his motivation to run the seminar each year. “My goal is to make this experience is as close as possible to an academic summer camp for them. I try to make it a place for them to recharge their intellectual batteries.”

Sarat, who has taught at Amherst since 1974, is author, coauthor or editor of more than seventy books, including Mercy on Trial, When the State Kills and Law, Violence, and the Possibility of Justice. Most recently he was co-editor of When Law Fails: Making Sense of Miscarriages of Justice (2009), The Cultural Lives of Cause Lawyers (2009) and Forgiveness, Mercy, Clemency (2009).

Featured in the New York Times and on the NBC Today Show, Sarat was a recipient of the Hugo Adam Bedau Award, given to honor significant contributions to death penalty scholarship by the Massachusetts Coalition Against the Death Penalty, in 2009 and the Stan Wheeler Prize, awarded by the Law & Society Association for distinguished teaching and mentoring of undergraduate, graduate, and/or professional students working on issues of law and society, also in 2009. He has served as president of the Law and Society Association and of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

The NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. Created in 1965, the NEH is the largest sources of funding for humanities programs in the United States.