Madhavi Sunder

Professor, School of Law


Phone: 530-752-2896

Office: Rm. 1117 King Hall

Professor Sunder is a 2006 Carnegie Scholar and a leading scholar in the legal regulation of culture. Her work traverses numerous legal fields, from intellectual property and cultural property to human rights law and the First Amendment. She asks how age-old legal doctrines impede, rather than facilitate, change and modernity within traditional cultures. Adopting an interdisciplinary method, she argues that cultural studies and globalization studies can help us to modernize antiquated laws for the 21st century. Her recent publications include: "IP3," Stanford Law Review (2006), "The Invention of Traditional Knowledge," Law & Contemporary Problems (2007); "The Romance of the Public Domain," California Law Review (2004); "Piercing the Veil," Yale Law Journal (2003); and "Cultural Dissent," Stanford Law Review (2001). She has authored numerous comments and chapters in books and is the editor of Gender and Feminist Theory in Law and Society (2006). She is a contributor to

Professor Sunder was awarded a prestigious Carnegie Corporation Scholarship in 2006 to support her writing of a book on women reformers in the Muslim world.  The book is titled "Reading the Qur'an in Kuala Lumpur." Professor Sunder recently published "From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice" (Yale University Press 2012).She was a visiting professor of law at the Yale Law School in Spring 2008 and at the University of Chicago Law School from 2008-2009. She was a visiting professor at the Cornell Law School in Fall 2003. Professor Sunder's articles have been awarded the Honorable Mention in the Association of American Law Schools Scholarly Paper competition and selected for presentation at the Stanford/Yale Jr. Faculty Forum. Professor Sunder has been invited to give the Yale Legal Theory Workshop (October 2003), the Williams Project Lecture at the UCLA School of Law (October 2003), the Endries Lecture at the Syracuse University College of Law (September 2002), and the Keynote address at the Malthus, Mendel and Monsanto conference at the University of Oregon School of Law (April 2004). She has presented her work at numerous law schools and universities in the U.S. and around the world, including in Brazil and India. In Fall 2003 Professor Sunder was a visiting professor of law at Cornell Law School. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the open-access, peer-reviewed online journal, /Copyright/, and an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cultural Property and the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. She is the chair of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) section on Anthropology. From 2002 to 2005 she served on the Organizing Committee of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture & the Humanities. Sunder received her bachelor's degree in social studies, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1992 and her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1997. While at Stanford, she was an articles editor for theStanford Law Review. At Stanford, she won the Irving H. Hellman, Jr. Award for Outstanding Law Review Note and the Steven M. Block Civil Liberties Award for Exceptional Scholarship in Furtherance of Personal Freedom. Sunder clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced law in New York City with the firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. In 1999 she joined the faculty of the UC Davis School of Law, where she is currently a tenured professor and teaches intellectual property, international intellectual property, property, and women's human rights. At UC Davis, Sunder was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Special Interests

Intellectual Property (Including International Intellectual Property), Law And Cultural Studies, Cyberlaw, Women's Rights

Selected Career Highlights

  • Carnegie Corporation Scholar 2006-2008
  • "IP3" paper selected for Stanford/Yale Jr. Faculty Forum (2006)
  • Honored as one of four "top young IP scholars" (by Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, 2006)
  • Honorable Mention, Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Scholarly Paper Prize (2002)
  • Distinguished Teaching Award Nominee (2001, 2002, and 2003)
  • Law Clerk to the Honorable Harry Pregerson, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (1998-99)
  • Associate, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, New York City (1997-98)

Selected Publications

  • IP3, 59 Stan. L. Rev. 257 (2006)
  • Piercing the Veil, 112 YALE L. J. 1399 (2003).  Excerpted in JUST ADVOCACY: WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS, TRANSNATIONAL FEMINISM, AND THE POLITICS OF REPRESENTATION (Wendy Hesford & Wendy Kozol, eds.) (2004).
  • Cultural Dissent, 54 STAN. L. REV. 495 (2001).
  • Everyone's a Superhero: A Cultural Theory of Mary Sue Fan Fiction as Fair Use, 95 Cal. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2007) (with Anupam Chander)