John J. O’Brien Professor of Comparative Law
KIM LANE SCHEPPELE is a nomad. Her restless energy takes her from place to place in hot pursuit of new ideas. No surprise, then, that Scheppele, a pioneer in comparative law, wants to start a new field of legal scholarship. She calls it constitutional ethnography.
“Usually people who study
constitutional law sit around
and read books about it,”
says Scheppele. “Ethnographers,
on the other hand, tend to study different forms of culture
other than law. What I’m trying to do is bring these two branches
together by going off and living in the countries that I study.”
By doing so, Scheppele seems intent on emulating Margaret
Mead, as she investigates how laws and constitutions develop in
much the way that the famed anthropologist bunked down to
study the habits of South Seas islanders.
Since the 1990s, Scheppele’s intellectual wanderlust has led
her to extended stays in Hungary and Russia, where, in both
countries, she observed up close what democratic government
and a constitution mean to people who have never had either.