Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the NYU School of Law. Prior to moving to NYU, he was the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law and Deputy Dean of Intellectual Life at Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, took a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earned his law degree at Yale Law School. A specialist in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature, Yoshino has published in major academic journals such as the Columbia Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. He has also written extensively in other popular venues, such as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, Washington Journal, and The Tavis Smiley Show.
He is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006) and A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011).
Question: What do you do?
Kenji Yoshino: Well that’s another great question. I actually think of myself primarily as a political intellectual. So I think a lot of what drove me into legal academia was . . . rather than another kind of academia was the idea that I wanted to do something that was politically engaged with the world. So my first love was literature. I was an English major as an undergraduate. I still teach law and literature classes. I do actually think that literature has a lot to tell us about civil rights; but at the same time I was very politically active. And many, many humanists who go to law school have this story, so it need not detain us long. But my thought was if I actually care about these causes, I can probably do more for them than to write papers on the Renaissance about them. And so when I went to law school and I thought really maybe I should go into practice. But once I delved into the practical . . . or the world of practice I should say, I quickly realized that part of what was really important to me was the ideas and the intellectual enterprise. And so I split the difference by becoming a legal academic who’s very engaged in politics and in activism – particularly gay rights activism, but civil rights activism more broadly – who nonetheless I hope is trying to generate some new ideas about how this kind of activism should proceed.
Recorded on: 11/11/07