April 11, 2003

Clarke Program Focuses on E. Asian Law

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Cornell Law School’s newest addition is the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture, which started at the beginning of this semester. The stated goal of the program is to “bring a broad interdisciplinary and humanistic focus to the study of law in East Asia,” according to the program’s website.

“Our goal is to forge closer links between the Law School and the rest of the University,” said Prof. Annelise Riles, law, director of the Clarke Program. “There are programs like this at a few other law schools, such as Harvard Law’s East Asian Legal Studies and a similar program at Columbia University. These programs primarily examine the contrasts between law in Asia and America. We are interested in the cultural context. We intend to have students know more about culture and history than just law.”

The program offers talks, conferences, events and a study-abroad program in East Asian studies and law. It also gives interested students inside and outside of the Law School an opportunity to participate in programs involving Asian law and culture. Riles stressed the close ties to the Asian studies department’s East Asia Program in particular.

“[The Clarke Program and the East Asia Program] have had several close collaborations,” she said. “They will be cosponsoring a conference we are having on April 26.”

Many students involved with the Clarke Program find it to be a useful experience.

“It offers the opportunity to think about Asia as an important region in connection to legal theories or activities going on there,” said Hyun-Jung Kim law ’03. “To be a well-rounded person requires some knowledge of world events. This program helps fill a gap in Cornell Law School’s international studies programs. It offers the opportunity to meet with people who are interested in a more global perspective or interested in a more regional perspective, but a region that isn’t much discussed in classrooms at Cornell Law.”

The program was created with an endowment by Jack G. Clarke law ’52, former director and senior vice president of Exxon, and his wife Dorothea. According to Riles, the Clarkes were stationed in the Middle East and came to the conclusion that law school is often far removed from the reality of other cultures. They then donated money to support the disciplines of international and comparative law studies, she said.

Clarke could not be reached for comment.

“We sponsor a number of conferences,” Riles added. “We also have a colloquium every week where we invite professors who know a lot about East Asia and a little about law. … We have a nice combination of graduate students, law students and faculty.”

Students seem to share this excitement with the program’s success.

“The Clarke Program is unique because it has added an Asian perspective to the Law School’s already strong international and comparative law curriculum,” said Dan Freed law ’04, who will be the school’s first participant in a new exchange program with the Waseda University Graduate School of Law in Tokyo, Japan. “It has been successful in bringing a number of prominent speakers to its weekly lunch speaker series and has been a catalyst in setting up exchange programs with law schools in Asia,” he added.

The Clarke Program also sponsors an annual student essay competition, available to all graduate students, about legal institutions, ideas or practices in East Asia. Starting next year, program will also give two annual Clarke Lectures. The first will be given by Prof. William Alford, law, Harvard University, in the fall semester, and in the following semester, Prof. Marilyn Strathern, anthropology, Cambridge University, will speak on property rights in comparative perspective.

Archived article by David Hillis