Karen Tani

Karen Tani

Seaman Family University Professor

Karen M. Tani (J.D./Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, jointly appointed in the History Department and the Law School. Her scholarship focuses on twentieth-century U.S. legal history, with particular emphasis on social welfare law and policy, disability, individual rights, and the administrative state.

Tani is the author of States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972 (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which won the 2017 Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History. The book illuminates the nature and workings of modern American governance by examining legal contests over welfare benefits and administration in the years between the New Deal and the welfare rights movement.

Other published work has explored administrative interpretations of constitutional and statutory equality guarantees; rights language as a tool of twentieth-century statebuilding; the history of disability rights laws and disability-based income support programs; and the importance to historians of understanding federalism. This work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Law and History Review, the Disability Studies Quarterly, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism, among other outlets.

Tani’s current research project is about the legal and political salience of the concept of disability in the late twentieth century, in realms spanning social welfare, civil rights, and civil liberties.

Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty, Tani was a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.



Office Hours
by appointment

B.A., Dartmouth College (2002)
J.D., University of Pennsylvania (2007)
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (2011)

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