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Karen M. Tani L'07

Seaman Family University Professor

Karen Tani

Karen M. Tani is a scholar of U.S. legal history, with broad interests in social welfare law, administrative agencies, and the role of rights in the modern American state. Her current research is about the history of disability law in the late twentieth century. Continue reading…


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Articles and Book Chapters

Administrative Constitutionalism at the "Borders of Belonging": Drawing on History to Expand the Archive and Change the Lens, 168 U. PA. L. REV. 1603 (2019).

Constitutionalization as Statecraft: Vagrant Nation and the Modern American State, 43 L. & SOC. INQUIRY 1646 (2018).

From the Well-Regulated Society to the Modern American State, 57 AM. J. LEGAL HIST. 243 (2017).

An Administrative Right to Be Free from Sexual Violence? Title IX Enforcement in Historical and Institutional Perspective, 66 DUKE L. J. 1847 (2017)

Something Old, Something New: Reflections on the Sex Bureaucracy, 7 CAL. L. REV. CIRCUIT 122 (2017) (with Melissa Murray).

Clio and the Compound Republic, 47 PUBLIUS: THE JOURNAL OF FEDERALISM 235 (2017) (with Brent Cebul and Mason Williams).

Administrative Equal Protection: Federalism, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Rights of the Poor, 100 CORNELL L. REV. 825 (2015).

States' Rights, Welfare Rights, and the "Indian Problem": Negotiating Citizenship and Sovereignty, 1935-1954, 33 LAW & HIST. REV. 1 (2015).

Siting the Legal History of Poverty: Below, Above, and Amidst, in COMPANION TO AMERICAN LEGAL HISTORY (Sally E. Hadden & Alfred L. Brophy eds., Wiley Blackwell 2013) (with Felicia Kornbluh).

Welfare and Rights before the Movement: Rights as a Language of the State, 122 YALE L. J. 314 (2012).

Portia's Deal, 87 CHI.-KENT L. REV. 549 (2012).

The House that "Equality" Built: The Asian American Movement and the Legacy of Community Action, in THE WAR ON POVERTY: A NEW GRASSROOTS HISTORY (Annelise Orleck & Lisa Gayle Hazirjian eds., U. of Georgia Press, 2011).

Flemming v. Nestor: Anticommunism, the Welfare State, and the Making of "New Property," 26 LAW & HIST REV. 379 (2008).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers

Compensation, Commodification, and Disablement: How Law Has Dehumanized Laboring Bodies and Excluded Nonlaboring Humans (February 19, 2021), University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-14; MICH. L. REV. (forthcoming). (forthcoming)
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Research Areas

  • U.S. Legal & Constitutional History
  • Disability Law
  • Civil Rights Law
  • Social Welfare Law
  • Poverty Law
  • Law and Inequality
  • History & Development of the American Welfare State
  • Administrative Law


  • Law & Inequality
  • Social Welfare and American Law
  • Torts
  • U.S. Legal and Constitutional History
  • COVID & the Law

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