About the Author: Austin Sarat

Sarat_Austin.jpg Name:
Austin Sarat

Current Home:
Amherst, MA

Place of Birth:
Fall River, MA

BA Providence College
MA and PhD University of Wisconsin
JD Yale Law School

Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I arrived at Amherst in the fall of 1974, fresh off of a post-doctoral year at Yale. I don’t think I really knew 3what I was getting into. I did not like the place very much, thinking it to be too stuffy, pretentious, and humorless for my tasted. It was the extraordinary intellect and warmth of George Kateb that convinced me that Amherst might be a place for me.

Research Interests:
My scholarship has been focused in two areas, the relationship of law and violence (with particular emphasis on America’s death penalty) and the cultural life of law (with particular emphasis on law and film)

Awards and Prizes:

  • Ronald Pipkin Service Award, awarded annually to a Law and Society Association member who has demonstrated sustained and extraordinary service to the Association, 2014.
  • Lasting Contribution Award, awarded by the American Political Science Association’s Section on Law and Courts “for a book or journal article, 10 years or older, that has made a lasting impression on the field of law and courts.” Recognizing "The Emergence of Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, Claiming," 2011.
  • Huffington Post, Best Books 2010 for When Government Breaks the Law: Prosecuting the Bush Administration
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Providence College, awarded for being an “internationally renowned scholar of capital punishment and for pioneering work in the development of legal study in the liberal arts,” 2008. Honorary Degree Citation.
  • Hugo Adam Bedau Award, given to honor significant contributions to death penalty scholarship by the Massachusetts Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 2009.
  • 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, 2009.
  • James Boyd White Prize, awarded by the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities for “distinguished scholarly achievement” and in recognition of “outstanding and innovative” contributions to the humanistic study of law, 2006.
  • Reginald Heber Smith Book Award, awarded by the National Equal Justice Library to “honor scholarship on the subject of equal access to justice” for Cause Lawyering: Political Commitments and Professional Responsibilities and Cause Lawyering and the State in a Global Era, 2004.
  • Harry Kalven Prize, awarded by the Law & Society Association in recognition of a distinguished body of scholarly work that has contributed most effectively to the advancement of research in law and society, 1997.
  • Center for Public Resources 1989 Award for Excellence and Innovation in Alternative Dispute Resolution—Book Prize, for contribution to Quality of Dispute Resolution Symposium Issue (66 Denver University Law Review)

Favorite book:
So I am going to confess that my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Favorite Author:
Russell Banks for fiction and Elaine Scarry for non-fiction

Tips for aspiring writers:
Writing is hard. It takes a certain kind of courage to put one’s thoughts onto the page. I think the only way to confront the difficulty and muster the courage is to imagine what the sentences will/should look like and to let that imagining lead the act of writing.

My path to becoming a writer:
I got an academic job in which writing was essential to the future of my employment. I like having a job so I wrote. My path to becoming an author was marked by both the  imagining that I might have something to say and the fear of unemployment.