Prior to beginning her life as an academic, Cornell was a union organizer for a number of years. She worked for the UAW, the UE, and the IUE in California, New Jersey, and New York. She played a key role in organizing the conference on deconstruction and justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1989, 1990, and 1993-a conference at which Jacques Derrida is thought by many to have made his definitive philosophical turn toward the ethical. In addition, she has worked to coordinate Law and Humanities Speakers Series with the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and the Committee on Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. Professor Cornell was professor at the Cardozo School of Law from 1989 to 1994. From 1994-2001, she was professor of law at Rutgers-Newark Law School. Her other academic appointments include visiting distinguished professor of philosophy at Warwick University, UK; visiting professor of philosophy at SUNY Stonybrook; professor at the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute. She has been a senior fellow at A.D. Whitehouse, Cornell University, and a Mellon fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Professor Cornell earned her B.A. in philosophy and mathematics from Antioch College in 1978, and her J.D. from UCLA Law School in 1981.
Photos from Professor Cornell's recent trip to South Africa:
She has written numerous articles on contemporary continental thought, critical theory, grass-roots political and legal mobilization, jurisprudence, women's literature, feminism, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and political philosophy that have appeared in such journals as:
She is the co-editor, with Seyla Benhabib, of Feminism as Critique: On the Politics of Gender (1987); with David Gray Carlson and Michel Rosenfeld of Hegel and Legal Theory (1991); with Carlson and Rosenfeld of Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice (1992); and of Feminism and Pornography (2000).
She is part of a published philosophical exchange with Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, and Nancy Fraser entitled Feminist Contentions (1995). Her work has been translated into French, German, Japanese, Serbo-Croation, Portuguese, and Spanish.
1. (with Karin Van Marle and Albie Sachs) Albie Sachs and Transformation in South Africa: From Revolutionary Activist to Constitutional Court Judge (London: Birkbeck Law Press, 2014).
2. Law and Revolution in South Africa: uBuntu, Dignity, and the Struggle for Constitutional Transformation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014).
3. Clint Eastwood and Images of American Masculinity (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009).
4. Moral Images of Freedom: A Future for Critical Theory (New York, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). Winner of the Franz Fanon Award, 2007.
5. Defending Ideals: Democracy, War, and Political Struggles (New York: Routledge, 2004).
6. Between Women and Generations: Legacies of Dignity (New York: Palgrave, 2002); Paperback edition with new introduction (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).
7. Just Cause: Freedom, Identity, and Rights (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000).
8. At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, and Equality (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998).
9. At the Heart of Freedom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998).
10. The Imaginary Domain: A Discourse on Abortion, Pornography, and Sexual Harassment (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1995).
11. Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1993).
12. The Philosophy of the Limit (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1992).
13. Beyond Accommodation: Ethical Feminism, Deconstruction and the Law (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1991); New edition with new introduction (New York: Roman & Littlefield, 1999).
14. (with Kenneth Michael Panfilio) Symbolic Forms for a New Humanity: Cultural and Racial Reconfigurations of Critical Theory (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011).
15. Drucilla Cornell, Judith Butler, Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser, Feminist Contentions (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1995).
16. The Dignity Jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of South Africa: Cases and Materials (Two Volumes) (edited with Diana Dunbar, Stu Woolman, Sam Fuller, Jason Brickhill, and Michael Bishop) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013)
17. uBuntu and the Law: African Ideals and Postapartheid Jurisprudence (edited with Nyoko Muvangua) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012)
18. Dignity, Freedom and the Post-Apartheid Legal Order: The Critical Jurisprudence of Justice Laurie Ackermann (edited with Jaco Barnard-Naude and Francois Du Bois)(Cape Town: Juta, 2009)
19. Feminism and Pornography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)
20. Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice (edited with David Carlson and Michel Rosenfeld) (New York: Routledge, 1992)
21. Hegel and Legal Theory (edited with David Carlson and Michel Rosenfeld) (New York: Routledge, 1991)
22. Feminism as Critique: On the Politics of Gender (with Seyla Benhabib) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987)
Professor Cornell’s books have been translated into German, French, Japanese, and Spanish, Italian, Russian, Georgian, Polish, Finnish, Swedish, Korean, Serbian, and Croatian
Professor Cornell has written in the fields of German Idealism and Critical Theory, including contemporary French Philosophy. In the last ten years, her research has focused on feminist theory, race critical theory, and more specifically, on the substantive revolution of South Africa. In 2003, she founded the uBuntu Project, which both researched and advocated for the significance of indigenous ideals and values such as uBuntu in the new dispensation. The project advocated for the reconstitutionalization of uBuntu at the level of the constitutional court. Since that time the court has developed a rich uBuntu jurisprudence. The project works closely with both members of the court and parliament and holds yearly seminars at the University of Pretoria.
She lectures widely and has recently given papers and conducted seminars in South Africa, Japan, Serbia, and Macedonia. In March 2003, she will deliver the prestigious Ryle Lectures at Trent University in Canada.
A produced playwright, productions of her plays The Dream Cure, Background Interference, and Lifeline have been performed in California, New York, Florida, and Ohio. Her dramatization of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake runs every year in Dublin, Ireland.
She is currently working on two books: one about the future of freedom, equality, and global development; another about the future of critical theory.