Rachel Stern

2240 Piedmont Avenue, #220
Office Hours:
Afternoons, by appointment


Spring 2013
Spring 2015
Rachel Stern's picture


Personal Statement: 

Rachel Stern is an assistant professor of law and political science in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program. Her research explores the relationship between law, power, social change and globalization, particularly in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Her recent work focuses on the role courts play in authoritarian states as well as the political dynamics surrounding environmental regulation and activism in China.

Her first book, Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013. In a country known for tight political control and ineffectual courts, the book unravels how everyday justice works: how judges make decisions, why lawyers take cases and how international influence matters. It is an account of how the leadership’s mixed signals and political ambivalence play out on the ground--propelling some to action, even as others back away from risk. The book received an Honorable Mention for the 2014 Herbert Jacob book award from the Law & Society Association.

Other recent articles on law and social activism have appeared in Comparative Political Studies, Law & Politics and China Quarterly. Before joining the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, Rachel was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows.


Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Presss, 2013).



The Outpost Office: How International Law Firms Approach the China Market (with Su Li), Law & Social Inquiry (Summer 2015)

The Political Logic of China's New Environmental CourtsThe China Journal (July 2014), pp. 53-74.

Amplifying Silence: Uncertainty and Control Parables in Contemporary China (with Jonathan Hassid). Comparative Political Studies (October 2012), 1230-1254.

Politics at the Boundary: Mixed Signals and the Chinese State (with Kevin J. O’Brien). Modern China (March 2012), pp. 175-199.

From Dispute to Decision: Suing Polluters in China,The China Quarterly 206 (June 2011), pp. 294-312.

On the Frontlines: Making Decisions in Chinese Civil Environmental Lawsuits, Law & Policy 32:1 (January 2010), pp. 79-103.

Studying Contention in Contemporary China (with Kevin J. O’Brien) in Popular Protest in China (Harvard University Press: 2008).

Unpacking Adaptation: The Female Inheritance Movement in Hong KongMobilization 10:3 (October 2005), pp. 421-439.

The Female Inheritance Movement in Hong Kong: Theorizing the Local/Global Interface, (with Sally Engle Merry) Current Anthropology 46:3 (June 2005), pp. 387-408. Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization (Blackwell Publishing: 2007) and International Law and Society: Empirical Approaches to Human Rights (Ashgate Publishing: 2007).

Hong Kong Haze: Air Pollution as a Social Class Issue, Asian Survey XLIII (September/October 2003), pp. 780-800.



Legal Institutions (Spring 2015)