Associate Professor Katharina Heyer



Katharina Heyer is Associate Professor of Political Science and Law & Politics. Her research and teaching focus on the sociolegal inquiry into rights, social movements, and comparative law. Born and raised in the American sector of what was then called West Berlin, as well as spending years living in Japan, she developed a lifelong interest in the American influence on German and Japanese postwar politics, welfare states, and legal reforms. Trained as a comparative political scientist she finds her intellectual home in the law and society movement and in disability studies.

Professor Heyer has published on Japanese and German disability law and on the American disability rights movement. Her book Rights Enabled: The Disability Revolution traces the uniquely American origins of a "rights model" of disability and examines the ways this model becomes transformed through national and international instruments. It follows the journey of disability rights from the United States to Japan, Germany and the United Nations and examines ways that notions of disability, equality, and rights become reinterpreted and contested by national and global networks. Her most recent research projects focuses on the politics of rights and autonomy over vulnerable bodies in the contemporary debates surrounding assisted dying, prenatal testing, and abortion rights.

Research Interests

Sociolegal studies, rights politics, social movements, disability studies, constitutional law, biomedical ethics.

Selected Publications

Rights Enabled: The Disability Revolution from the US, to Germany and Japan, and to the United Nations (University of Michigan Press, 2015)

"Law and Disability" in Wiley Handbook of Law and Society, edited by Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick, 2015

"Stories of Life and Death: Anti-Rights Strategies in End-of-Life Discourse" 54 Studies in Law, Politics and Society (2011: 77)

"A Disability Lens on Sociolegal Research: Reading Rights of Inclusion from a Disability Studies Perspective." 32 Law and Social Inquiry (2007: 261)

"No One is Perfect: Disability and Difference in Japan" in Disability in the Foreign Language Classroom. Tammy Berberi and Elizabeth Hamilton, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007

"The ADA on the Road: Disability Rights in Germany 27 Law and Social Inquiry (2006: 901)

"Rights or Quotas? The ADA as a Model for Disability Rights" Handbook of Research on Employment Discrimination: Rights and Realities (Springer, 2005: 237)

Courses Taught

POLS 660 "Rights and Social Movements" (elective for Cultural Studies Certificate)

POLS 376 "Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties"

POLS 377 "The Politics of Vulnerability"

POLS 367 "Disability Law and Politics"

POLS 393 "Health Care Law and Politics"


Curriculum Vitae

Undergraduate Certificate in Law and Society