There is arguably no more seminal a figure in the field of law and society than Professor Marc Galanter. That a Special Issue featuring dedications to several leading academic lights would be hosted by the University of Chicago Law Review is especially significant in terms of Marc’s inclusion because Chicago is where Marc came of age as a student.
Professor Richard Abel, some years back, chronicled Marc’s educational journey in Hyde Park. As Abel tells it—and as Marc has told me over the years—after finishing his B.A. and while continuing to work on his master’s degree from Chicago, Marc enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania for law school in 1953. Yet after a frustrating first year at Penn, because of what he saw as the narrow confines of legal education, Marc returned to Chicago—his intellectual oasis. There, he finished his M.A. and began at the law school as a second-year transfer student, and he ultimately earned his J.D. in 1956.
This Essay will offer my perspective on the influence that Marc has had on different areas of the law, as well as on me. In what some of my friends in India might refer to as “destinical,” forty years after Marc contemplated leaving legal education and the law altogether, he encountered a terribly naïve student who was experiencing similar sentiments after his 1L year. In 1994, after completing two semesters at Ohio State, I felt lost. I knew that I had a keen interest in how law intersected with politics, particularly within the country from where my parents immigrated—India. I also knew that I might one day want to write and teach in the areas of law and social science. But beyond these generalities, I was not sure about much else.
During that summer of 1994, I set up three meetings with academics at Ohio State: the judicial politics scholar Lawrence Baum; Nancy Rogers, who was highly regarded in the field of alternative dispute resolution (ADR); and then-provost Richard Sisson, a political scientist who studied India. After hearing about my interests, each independently suggested that I reach out to Marc to introduce myself.
I subsequently wrote to Marc. As an undergrad (also at Ohio State), I had read his famous book Competing Equalities, which dealt with the legal struggles lower castes faced in India. I mentioned how I had done a senior honors thesis on the Indian caste system and that I was inspired by the decades that he had spent becoming an expert on Indian law and society. I also explained that I was unfulfilled in law school and that I would love to hear his thoughts on how best I should proceed.
To my surprise, Marc called me one evening and said that he was delighted to receive my letter. While several law students over the years at Wisconsin had taken an interest in Africa, China, Europe, and Latin America, he said that few had focused on India, and it was exciting to hear from me. He then had an idea.
He suggested that I should complete my second year of law school at Ohio State but that, during my 2L fall semester, I should apply to the Ph.D. program in political science at Wisconsin, which had a group of acclaimed scholars who researched issues related to law and comparative politics. If I was accepted, I could join the following year and then finish my third year of law school in Madison in due time as a visiting student. Additionally, I could possibly work with Marc as his research assistant and take an intensive independent study with him. And he said that I could become involved in Wisconsin’s renowned Center for South Asia, where he held a faculty appointment.
I was spellbound—and persuaded. I spent the fall of 1994 studying for the GRE and coordinating the necessary logistics. In the spring of 1995, I was admitted to Wisconsin, and, later that summer, I was off to Madison.
Krishnan, Jayanth K.
"A Pioneer of the Law & Society Movement: One Eyewitness’s Reflections,"
University of Chicago Law Review: Vol. 88:
7, Article 10.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclrev/vol88/iss7/10