Bernadette Atuahene

  • Professor of Law

>>Go to the website for Prof. Atuahene's new book: We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program (Oxford University Press 2014)

Professor Atuahene has varied experiences in the field of law and international development. During law school, she worked as a legal consultant for the World Bank and as a human rights investigator for the Center for Economic and Social Rights, where she received Amnesty International's Patrick Stewart Human Rights Award for her work with human rights organizations throughout South America.

After law school, Professor Atuahene was in South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar. She served as a judicial clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, working for Justices Madala and Ngcobo. She then practiced as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York, where she focused on sovereign debt and real estate transactions.

Professor Atuahene joined the Chicago-Kent faculty in 2005. She teaches Law, Policy and International Development; Property; Trusts and Estates; and International Business Transactions. In 2007 she was selected to become a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation (which is a socio-legal think tank based in Chicago), and in 2016 she was promoted to Research Professor.

In 2008 she won the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship and worked with the South African Director General of Land Affairs and his staff. Her most recent book, We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program, is based on 150 interviews she conducted of program beneficiaries. She also directed and produced a documentary film about one South African family's struggle to reclaim their land. Professor Atuahene won the Law and Public Affairs Fellowship and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Princeton University for the 2011–12 academic year. Most recently, she won a National Science Foundation Grant for her new book project about squatters in Detroit.


J.D., Yale Law School
M.P.A., Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
B.A., University of California, Los Angeles



Predatory Cities,108 California Law Review (forthcoming 2020)

Taxed Out: Illegal property tax assessments and the epidemic of tax foreclosures in Detroit, 9 UC Irvine Law Review 847 (2019) (with Christopher Berry)

From reparations to dignity restoration: The story of the Popela community, 18 African Human Rights Law Journal 654 (2018) (with Sanele Sibanda).

"Our Taxes Are Too Damn High": Institutional Racism, Property Tax Assessment, and the Fair Housing Act ,112 Northwestern Law Review 1501 (2018).

Stategraft, 91 Southern California Law Review 263 (2018) (with T. Hodge).

Takings as a Sociolegal Concept: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Involuntary Property Loss, 12 Annual Review of Law & Social Science 171 (2016).

Dignity Takings and Dignity Restoration: Creating a New Theoretical Framework for Understanding Involuntary Property Loss and the Remedies Required, 41 Law & Social Inquiry 796 (2016).

The Importance of Conversation in Transitional Justice: A Study of Land Restitution in South Africa, 39 Law and Social Inquiry 902 (2014).

South Africa’s Land Reform Crisis: Eliminating the Legacy of Apartheid, 90 Foreign Affairs 121 (2011).

Paying for the Past: Redressing the Legacy of Land Dispossession in South Africa, 45 Law & Society Review 955 (2011).

Property Rights and the Demands of Transformation, 31 Michigan Journal of International Law 765 (2010).

Property and Transitional Justice, 58 UCLA Law Review Discourse 65 (2010).

Things Fall Apart: The Illegitimacy of Property Rights in the Context of Past Theft, 51 Arizona Law Review 829 (2009).

From Reparation to Restoration: Moving Beyond Restoring Property Rights to Restoring Political and Economic Visibility, 60 SMU Law Review 1419 (2007).

Land Titling: A Mode of Privatization with the Potential to Deepen Democracy, 50 St. Louis University Law Journal 761 (2006).

Legal Title to Land as an Intervention Against Urban Poverty in Developing Nations, 36 George Washington International Law Review 1109 (2004).

The Effectiveness of International Legislative Responses to the Helms-Burton Act, 69 Revista Juridica Unversidad de Puerto Rico 809 (2000).


Don’t Let Detroit’s Revival Rest on an Injustice, The New York Times (July 22, 2017).

Detroit’s Homeowners Deserve Better, The Detroit News (January 31, 2017).

Detroit's Tax Foreclosures Indefensible, Detroit Free Press (September 1, 2016).

In South Africa, Land Apartheid Lives On, New York Times (January 15, 2015) (with Alfred L. Brophy).

Evaluating Mandela’s Legacy One Year Later, Huffington Post (December 2014).

Nelson Mandela’s Uneven Legacy, Los Angeles Times (December 5, 2014).

Doing It Better Second Time Around, The Times (July 22, 2014).

Lack of Communication is an Injustice in Land Restitution, Mail and Guardian (July 18, 2014).

Land is not a Utopia for the Dispossessed, Mail and Guardian (July 20, 2012).

Happy Birthday Madiba, Huffington Post (2010).

If We Do Not Act, South Africa Will Fall Apart Just like Zimbabwe Has, Huffington Post (2010).

Haiti: Has God Turned His Back on the Country?, Huffington Post (2010).

We Need to Anticipate Terrorists, Not React to Them, Huffington Post (March 18, 2010).

Search Professor Atuahene's publications on


Stategraft: A Pernicious Form of Corruption Unveiled (forthcoming 2019).

We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program (Oxford University Press 2014).