Stanford Law Scholar Awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship

Amalia D. Kessler, the Lewis Talbot and Nadine Hearn Shelton Professor in International Legal Studies at Stanford Law School (SLS), has been awarded a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship. This prestigious honor recognizes mid-career scholars, artists and scientists who have demonstrated a previous capacity for outstanding work and continue to show exceptional promise.

Amalia D. Kessler 1
Professor Amalia D. Kessler

“I’m deeply honored to have received a Guggenheim Fellowship and am very grateful to the Foundation for its support,” Kessler said.

Kessler’s research focuses on the evolution of commercial law and civil procedure, particularly the roots of modern market culture and present-day process norms. “The United States is alone today in forcing millions of workers and consumers into binding, mandatory arbitration that prevents them from filing suit to vindicate their rights, often enabling large corporate interests to escape liability,” said Kessler. “Underlying this legal framework is the view that arbitration is necessarily a matter of private contract in which the government has no business interfering. I challenge this myth of private ordering, arguing that the turn to arbitration in the early 20th century was tied to state-building efforts designed to respond to the myriad challenges posed by the rise of modern industrial society, many of which – including a vast inequality gap – parallel those we confront today.”

In 2018, Kessler’s book, Inventing American Exceptionalism: The Origins of American Adversarial Legal Culture, 1800-1877 (Yale University Press, 2017) received the American Society for Legal History’s John Phillip Reid Book Award for the best English-language monograph by a mid-career or senior scholar on Anglo-American legal history. In 2011, she received the Hessel Yntema Prize from the American Society of Comparative Law for the “most outstanding” article by a scholar under 40 appearing in the previous year’s volume of the American Journal of Comparative Law.

As a fellow, Kessler will work on a new book project that reconceptualizes the origins of modern American arbitration.

Kessler is also the associate dean for advanced degree programs at SLS and the founding director of the Stanford Center for Law and History. She will be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences next academic year. 

View Kessler’s video discussion of her Inventing American Exceptionalism book.

Read about all of Stanford’s 2021 Guggenheim Fellows