By Andrew Cohen
By all objective metrics, Asad Rahim was a sparkling success. Raised in a working class community on the South Side of Chicago, he flourished academically and moved to Hong Kong right after college to work at JPMorgan Chase as an equity derivatives specialist.
He had made it — just not to where he truly wanted to be.
“I started off my career in finance, not because I was particularly passionate about it, but because I wanted financial security,” says Rahim, Berkeley Law’s newest faculty member. “But whenever I had downtime at my desk, I’d pull up articles about race and gender discrimination because those were the topics I was actually interested in.”
Soon enough that interest fueled a career pivot toward law school and a Ph.D. Named the most outstanding student in his graduating class at Babson College, Rahim went on to excel at Harvard Law before enrolling — and thriving — in Berkeley Law’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program.
He earned his Ph.D., developed deep ties to the law school community, and relished how the JSP Program cultivated intellectual freedom for him to fully pursue his interests.
“The academy is generally marked by disciplinary boundaries: you’re either a historian or a sociologist or an economist … but my fidelity was never to any particular discipline,” Rahim says. “I identify as a race scholar who studies legal problems, and being a good race scholar requires you to look across disciplines for insights. The JSP Program gave me a range of tools to study the questions I found most interesting, without forcing me to adhere to set boundaries.”
Rahim spent the past year as a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA Law, working with the school’s Critical Race Studies program to develop a project about the unique forms of discrimination experienced by queer Black men. He previously was an American Bar Foundation Law and Inequality Doctoral Fellow and an associate editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Law & Social Inquiry.
“Asad Rahim is precisely the kind of legal scholar the moment demands — a person who mobilizes interdisciplinarity to engage pressing matters of public concerns,” says UCLA Law Professor Devon Carbado. “Asad has a distinctive and bold scholarly voice, and he writes with both precision and elegance. His level of scholarly achievement is already tenurable, and his scholarly star will only continue to rise.”
On the fast track
Rahim, whose research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Bar Foundation, writes in the areas of constitutional law, critical race theory, and employment discrimination. His publications have appeared or are forthcoming in California Law Review, UCLA Law Review, and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that Asad is going to be a great classroom teacher and a superb scholar in the fields of race and the law and constitutional law,” says Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.
This coming school year, Rahim will teach two courses: Anti-Blackness and the Law, and Race and the Law. He will eventually add Contracts and undergraduate legal studies classes to his teaching portfolio.
“Berkeley Law students are empowered members of the community,” Rahim says. “They have sophisticated analysis of social issues and push each other, and the faculty, to create more fair and inclusive spaces.”
His current research project explores racism in the adult film industry, which he says is rife with explicit and often shocking forms of racial discrimination.
“For many, pornography is a primary form of sex education,” Rahim says. “It’s not only miseducating people about sex and gender, but also transmitting harmful ideas about race. But it’s not a paper against pornography. Instead, I’m calling for more rigorous enforcement of anti-discrimation laws within the adult film industry.”
Grateful to join the Berkeley Law faculty and eager to get started, Rahim relishes this new chapter in his career — and the chance to reconnect with old friends.
“During my time in graduate school, I became very close to members of the JSP faculty as well as the J.D. faculty,” he says. “A good deal of my community came from the law school. In a lot of ways, joining the faculty feels like a homecoming.”
Related stories: In addition to Rahim, privacy law expert Chris Hoofnagle recently became a member of Berkeley Law’s teaching faculty with security of employment. Last year, the school welcomed a whopping nine new professors.