Faculty & Staff




Emeritus Professor of Law


BA, Arizona State University, 1975
BFA, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 2020
JD, William S. Richardson School of Law, 1980
LLM, Harvard Law School, 1983


From her earliest academic publications, the prolific Professor Matsuda has spoken from the perspective and increasingly used the method that has come to be known as critical race theory. She is not only one of its most powerful practitioners, but is among a handful of legal scholars credited with its origin. Her first article, “Liberal Jurisprudence and Abstracted Visions of Human Nature,” published in 1986, boldly—albeit respectfully—took on liberal legal philosopher John Rawls’ theory of justice and in doing so announced her own philosophical orientation. Matsuda concludes her piece with an idea that informs much of her work in subsequent years: “There is, as Rawls suggests, a place called Justice, and it will take many voices to get there.” The voices she has in mind are the voices that have been left out, “outsider” voices speaking as individuals and as members of their communities of origin, voices of subordinate peoples. Voices from the bottom, Matsuda believes—and critical race theory posits—have the power to open up new legal concepts of even constitutional dimension. Paradoxically, bringing in the voices of outsiders has helped to make Matsuda’s work central to the legal canon. A Yale Law School librarian ranked three of her publications as among the “top 10 most cited law review articles” for their year of publication. Judges and scholars regularly quote her work.

Mari Matsuda is also known as a teacher. Her elective courses are typically over-subscribed, she has lectured at every major university, and she is much in demand as a public speaker. Judges in countries as diverse as Micronesia and South Africa have invited her to conduct judicial training, and other law professors count her as a significant influence on their own work. Harvard professor Lani Guinier says, “Mari Matsuda taught me that I have a voice. I did not have to become a female gentleman, a social male. Nor should I strive to become someone else in order to be heard.” And social critic Catharine MacKinnon says of Matsuda’s book, Where Is Your Body: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Law, “Her writing shines, her politics illuminate, her passion touches and reveals…Community grows in her hands. Read her. We need this.”

For Matsuda, community is linked to teaching and scholarship. She serves on national advisory boards of social justice organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian American Justice Center. By court appointment, she served as a member of the Texaco Task Force on Equality and Fairness, assisting in the implementation of the then-largest employment discrimination settlement in U.S. history. “Every one of the publications that I am known for came out of some kind of pro bono community project I was working on,” she says. Her Yale Law Journal article on accent discrimination, for example, came out of her representation of Manual Fragante, immigrant and Vietnam veteran. Although he placed first of 700 applicants on a civil service test for the job of clerk in the Hawai`i Department of Motor Vehicles, Fragante was passed over because of his accent. For her work on such cases, A Magazine recognized her in 1999 as one of the 100 most influential Asian Americans.

Judge Richard Posner, in his quantitative analysis of scholarly influence, lists Mari Matsuda as among those scholars most likely to have lasting influence. Yet in other venues, he has criticized the narrative methods of critical race theory. This paradox of criticism combined with recognition perhaps best characterizes reaction to Matsuda’s work. People, in her optimistic words, “learn and grow through interaction with difference, not by reproducing what they already know.” A faith in law’s potential for reconstruction to create a more inclusive democracy illuminates all of Mari Matsuda’s work.

Adapted from a biographic essay by Wendy Williams



  • The Last Public Place: Critical Race Theory and Education (forthcoming) (with Charles Lawrence).
  • We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action, Houghton-Mifflin (1997) (with Charles Lawrence).
  • Where is Your Body? And Other Essays on Race, Gender and the Law, Beacon Press (1996).
  • Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment, Westview Press (1993) (with Lawrence, Delgado & Crenshaw).
  • Called From Within: Early Women Lawyers of Hawaiʻi, University of Hawaiʻi Press (1992) (Editor).


  • Only We Can Free Ourselves: Reflections on the Works of Mari Matsuda, Symposium at UCLA, April 6, 2013.  Tribute articles published in Volume 18 of the UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal.
  • Toward a Multiple Consciousness of Language: A Tribute to Professor Mari Matsuda, Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Vol. 112 (2014).

Jounal Articles & Book Chapters

  • “Somebody Else’s Child” in Bell and Southerland, Carving Out a Humanity,  NYU Press (2020)
  • The Flood: Political Economy and Disaster, in The Cambridge Handbook of Disaster Law: Risk, Recovery, and Redevelopment, (Susan Kuo, John Travis Marshall, and Ryan M. Rowberry eds.) (forthcoming Cambridge, 2021). 
  • Virginia v. Black, in Critical Race Judgments (forthcoming 2020).
  • Dissent in a Crowded Theater, 72 SMU L. Rev. 441 (2019). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • This Is (Not) Who We Are: Korematsu, Constitutional Interpretation, and National Identity, 128 Yale L. J. (2019). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • The Next Dada Utopian Visioning Peace Orchestra: Constitutional Theory and the Aspirational, 62:4 McGill Law Journal 1203 (2017) (published 2018) HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Japanese American Progressives: A Case Study in Identity Formation, in Y. Takezawa & G. Okihiro, eds., Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies: Conversations on Race and Racializations, University of Hawai‘i Press, pp. 342-366 (2016). Published in 2011 as an occasional paper for the Kyoto University Institute for Research in the Humanities.  ScholarSpace
  • Fusion, in Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Linda Trinh Võ, and K. Scott Wong, eds., Keywords for Asian American Studies, NYU Press, pp. 101-104 (2015). NYU Press
  • Admit That The Waters Around You Have Grown: Change and Legal Education 89 Indiana Law Journal 1381 (2014). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Is Peacemaking Unpatriotic?: The Function of Homophobia in the Discursive World 11 The Journal of Hate Studies (2013). ScholarSpace
  • Only We Can Free Ourselves 18 Asian Pacific American Law Journal 5 (2012). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Jon Van Dyke Was My Teacher 34 University of Hawai`i Law Review 373 (2012). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Public Education, in C. Howes and J. Osorio, The Value of Hawaii, Knowing The Past Shaping the Future (2010). UH Press
  • A Richardson Lawyer, 33 University of Hawai`i Law Review 61 (2010). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Poem for Armenian Genocide & Rules For Postcolonials, 13 Journal of Asian American Studies 359 (2010). ProjectMUSE
  • Are we Dead Yet?; the Lies We Tell to Keep Moving Forward Without Feeling 40 Connecticut Law Review 1035 (2008). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • The Flood; the Political Economy of Disaster 36 Hofstra Law Review 1 (2008). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Japanese, American, Citizen, Soldier, Patriot 33 Amerasia 95 (2008). Taylor Francis Online
  • Peace In The Valley, 29 University of Hawaii Law Review 1 (2006). HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • My Teacher Loves Me But She Hates Mice; An Existential Lamentation on the Collapse of Public Education 9 Journal of Race, Ethnicity & Education 1 (2005). Taylor Francis Online
  • Love, Change, 17 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 185 (2005) HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • Union Made, Winter 04/05 Social Policy 48 (2005). 
  • What Would It Take to Feel Safe?, 27 NYU Review of Law and Social Change 1 (2002). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Among The Mourners Who Mourn Why Should I Among Them Be?, 28 Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society 475 (2002). University of Chicago
  • Who Is Excellent?, 1 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 29 (2002). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Asian Americans and the Peace Imperative, 27 Amerasia 3 (2002), Reprinted in After Words: Who Speaks on War Justice and Peace, Asian American Studies Center Press (2003). Taylor Francis Online
  • Beyond and Not Beyond Black & White: Deconstruction Has a Politics, in Culp et al., Critical Race Theory: Histories, Crossroads, Directions, Temple University Press (2002). 
  • On Causation, 100 Columbia Law Review 2195 (2000). HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • Planet Asian America, 8 Asian Law Journal 169 (2001). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Foreword: Homophobia as Terrorism, 1 Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law 1 (1999). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Foreword: McCarthyism, the Internment, and the Contradictions of Power, 19 Boston College Third World Law J. 9 (1998). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Crime and Affirmative Action, 1 Journal of Gender, Race, and Justice 309 (1998). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Were You There: Witnessing Welfare Retreat, 31 Univ. of S.F. L. J. 779 (1998). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Progressive Civil Liberties, 3 Temple Pol. And Civ. Rts. L.Rev. 9 (1994). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Beside My Sister, Facing the Enemy: Legal Theory Out of Coalition, 43 Stanford Law Review 1183 (1991). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • The Voices of America: Accent, Anti-discrimination Law, and a Jurisprudence for the Last Reconstruction, 100 Yale Law Journal 1329 (1991). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Pragmatism Modified and the False Consciousness Problem, 63 Southern California Law Review 1763 (1990). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim’s Story, 87 Michigan Law Review 2320 (1989) (the most-cited article in the history of the Michigan L.Rev.) HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • When the First Quail Calls: Multiple Consciousness as Jurisprudential Method, 11 Women’s Rights Law Reporter 1 (1989). HeinOnlineScholarSpace
  • Affirmative Action in Legal Knowledge: Planting Seeds in Plowed-up Ground, 11 Harvard Women’s Law Journal 1 (1988). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Law and Culture in the District Court of Honolulu 1844-1845: A Case Study of the Rise of Legal Consciousness, 32 American Journal of Legal History 16 (1988). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Native Custom and Official Law in Hawaii, Internationales Jahrbuch fur Rechtsanthropologie (University of Vienna, Journal of Law and Anthropology, 1988). 
  • The American Law of Gender Discrimination, University of Hiroshima Law Journal (Fall 1988).
  • Looking to the Bottom: Critical Legal Studies and Reparations, 22 Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review 323 (1987); Reprinted in Crenshaw et al. Critical Race Theory (1995). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Liberal Jurisprudence and Abstracted Visions of Human Nature: A Feminist Critique of Rawls’ Theory of Justice, 16 New Mexico Law Review 613 (1986). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace

Other Publications/Film

  • Reflection on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s Race, Reform, and Retrenchment, Harv. L. Rev. Blog (Sept. 29, 2020), https://blog.harvardlawreview.org/reflection-on-kimberle-crenshaws-_race-reform-and-retrenchment_/
  • Interviewed by Michael Hanne, in A Conversation with Mari Matsuda, in Narrative and Metaphor in the Law, Michael Hanne & Robert Weisberg, eds., pp. 367-379 (2018).
  • Interviewed by Eunsong Kim & Gelare Khoshgozaran, in Mari Matsuda: Founding Critical Race Theorist, Activist and Artist, http://contemptorary.org/mari-matsuda, Contemptorary (2017).
  • Introduction, Depicting Japan and the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, in The Politics of Representation: Reflections on Controversial Issues in Museums and Related Places in Japan and Hawai‘i, Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, pp. 33-34 (November 2013).
  • Hughes, Charles Evans, The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 2nd ed. (2005).
  • None Dare Call It Segregation, The Nation Magazine, April 2004. ScholarSpace
  • Hate Speech: What Price Tolerance? The Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society, (2003).
  • Their Liberties, Our Security: Democracy and Double Standards, December 2002/January 2003 Boston Review 4, ScholarSpace
  • I and Thou and We and the Way to Peace, Berkeley Electronic Press (2002). HeinOnline | ScholarSpace
  • Books Not Bars: Confronting Criminal Justice Issue Through Multiracial Action 27 NYU Review of Law & Social Change 78 (2001-2002).
  • What Do We Teach in Independent Schools?, National Association of Independent Schools, Dec. 2002.
  • Race, Memory, and Civil Society: The Japanese YWCA Case, Civil Society and Governance Programme at the Institute of Developmental Studies (Jan 2000); abstract available at: http://www.eldis.org/go/home&id=11444&type=Document
  • Feminism and Affirmative Action, Ms. Magazine, July 1999. ScholarSpace
  • Merit Badges for the Revolution, Ms. Magazine, Sept. 1997. ScholarSpace
  • Is Hawaii America’s Tomorrow?, Harvard University, Holoimua o Hawaii (1997). Conference Website
  • Crime and Punishment, Ms. Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1994, 86. ScholarSpace
  • Declarations, PBS Special – written with Orlando Bagwell (1993).
  • We Will Not Be Used, XII Asian Law Caucus Reporter 1 (1990); reprinted in UCLA Asian Pacific Law Journal (1992). HeinOnline
  • Book Review Essay, Reynolds, The Law of the Land, 1 The Contemporary Pacific 182 (1989). ScholarSpace
  • Language as Violence v. Freedom of Expression, 37 Buffalo Law Review(link is external) 223 (1989). ScholarSpace
  • Book Review Essay, Silverman, Kaʻahumanu, Molder of Change, 22 The Hawaiian Journal of History 264 (1988). eVols UH
  • The Integration of Customary and Traditional Renewable Resource Practices in a Modern Legal Framework, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1986).(with W. Chang and B. Nakamura).
  • The West and the Legal Status of Women: Explanations of Frontier Feminism, The Journal of the West, Vol. XXIV, No. 1 (January 1985); reprinted in Langum, Law in the West (1985). ScholarSpace
  • Practitioner’s Guide to Recent Developments in Section 1983 Litigation, Hawaii Bar Journal (winter 1981).

Activities and Community Service

Board Memeber

Advisory Board, Asian American Justice Center, 1997 to present; National Advisory Council, American Civil Liberties Union, 1997 to present; Board Member, Law and Society Association, 1990-1992; Board Member, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, 1984-1985; Board Member, Harvard Civil Rights Project, 2003 to present; Board Member, Journal of Law & Society, 2009 to 2012.


Volunteer attorney for ACLU of Hawaii 1980-1989; volunteer attorney in employment discrimination and immigrant rights cases for Na Loio No Na Kanaka; 1991, 1992 Language Rights Committee, Asian Pacific Legal Center; Texaco Task Force on Equality and Fairness (court appointed task force monitoring the then largest anti-discrimination settlement in U.S. history) 1997 to 2002; Project Director, Still Present Pasts, Korean Americans and the Forgotten War, Bishop Museum 2010; Value of Hawai‘i at Fresh Café 2011. 

Foreign Teaching

Instructor of Tort Law for Micronesian Judges in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia, June 1984; and in the Republic of Belau, January 1985; visiting lecturer in law, University of Hiroshima, Spring 1988; Seminar lecturer in Constitutional Law, Center for Applied Legal Studies program for judges, advocates, and professors, Johannesburg, South Africa, January 1995.

Law School Service

2006 AALS (Association of American Law Schools) Remedies Workshop Planning Committee; 1992 Chair, AALS section on Legal History; AALS 1993 annual meeting planning committee; AALS minority recruitment and retention committee, 1990-1992; co-chair, UCLA Civil Rights Conference, 1992; 1989-1991 nominations committee, American Society for Legal History


  • Elected Member, American Law Institute 2017
  • Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2016
  • Harvard Law International Women’s Day, Women Inspiring Change 2015
  • Critical Race Theory in Education Association Derrick Bell Award 2012
  • William S. Richardson School of Law Alumna of the Year 2010
  • Hawaii Women Lawyers Outstanding Lawyer Award 2004
  • Society of American Law Teachers 2002 Teaching Award
  • Second National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference, Distinguished Scholar Award, 2004 
  • A Magazine 100 Most Influential Asian Americans of the Decade Award, 1999
  • Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America 1998
  • Most Cited Law Review Articles 1989, 1991
  • 100 Most Cited Law Review Authors

Related News

Civil Rights, Sanctuary, and Racism Are Central Themes of 2 UH Events

portrait photo




You may send correspondence to Prof. Matsuda via regular mail:, William S. Richardson School of Law, Honolulu, HI 96822



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