Alumna returns to KU as Langston Hughes Visiting Professor

Sarah Deer, L'99, Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at KU Law

‘There is quite a bit of nostalgia in my return’

Professor Sarah Deer has returned to the University of Kansas School of Law to serve as the 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor.

Deer is a graduate of both the University of Kansas (1995) and KU Law (1999), and is currently a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She is recognized nationally for her expertise on sexual violence in Indian country and her advocacy on behalf of Native women.

This fall, Deer will co-teach the Sex Crimes course with KU Law Professor Corey Rayburn Yung, and the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic with Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner. She will also teach a class on Feminist Jurisprudence.

“I am honored to have been selected for the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship this semester,” Deer said. “I have missed Lawrence ever since graduating, and there is quite a bit of nostalgia in my return. I have strong Jayhawk heritage in my family.”

Both of Deer’s parents attended KU, and she met her husband, Neal Axton, L’98, during law school.

A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Deer has documented in her scholarship a history of inadequate protection for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Indian country. She has simultaneously worked with grassroots and national organizations to reform federal policies that hinder the ability of tribes to prosecute offenders. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In 2014, she was named a MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.

Deer recently published a book, “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America,” and participated in a conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls.

“Since receiving the MacArthur fellowship in 2014, I have been focused on scholarship and activism that amplifies the voices of Native women – particularly those affected by violence and abuse,” she said. “During the last year, I co-authored two Supreme Court amicus briefs on behalf of Native women’s organizations.”

Deer’s next book project will feature the writings of young Native women who are working on social justice issues. Down the road, she plans to publish a book on indigenous feminist legal theory in American law.

“Having the opportunity to co-teach Sex Crimes and teach Feminist Jurisprudence at KU will provide even more foundation for that project,” Deer said.

The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship was established at KU in 1977 in honor of the African-American poet, playwright and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship attracts prominent or emerging ethnic minority scholars to KU. This is the first Langston Hughes appointment for the law school.