Politics Faculty

Kira Tait
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • PhD
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Politics Department
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Merrill College Faculty Office Annex, 164
  • Mail Stop Merrill/Crown Faculty Services

Summary of Expertise

Law and Society, Human Rights, Legal Mobilization, Comparative Law and Courts, Comparative Constitutionalism

Research Interests

In her research, Dr. Tait explores the ways ordinary people encounter laws and institutions to improve their material reality. Dr. Tait is committed to studying the meanings people make about the law, rights, and state institutions to assess the political actions people can and do take to improve their material conditions in light of these laws and rights. 


Her research agenda's ultimate goal is to assess the embeddedness of the principles housed in the law and rights in everyday people's consciousness as they grapple with everyday sociopolitical challenges. While South Africa is her primary area of expertise, Dr. Tait has a broader interest in new democracies in the Global South. 


In her current book project, she explores ordinary Black South Africans' perceptions of the law and how they impact their views of the desirability and appropriateness of appealing to courts when they have problems accessing constitutionally guaranteed services. This book relies on 12 months of fieldwork in South Africa. 


Biography, Education and Training

BA, John Jay College (CUNY), Political Science

PhD, University Of Massachusetts Amherst, Political Science

Honors, Awards and Grants

2021    Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow

            University of California, Irvine 

            Department of Criminology, Law and Society 


2020    Three-Minute Thesis Competition Winner and People’s Choice Award 

            Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Amherst


2018    Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant 

            Law and Social Sciences Program, National Science Foundation


2018    U.S. Fulbright Student Award 

            Fulbright Student Research Award, Institute for International Education


2017    Fulbright-Group Project Abroad Fellowship in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Selected Publications

Tait, Kira, and Whitney K. Taylor. “The Possibility of Rights Claims-Making in Court:

Looking Back on Twenty-Five Years of Social Rights Constitutionalism in South

Africa.” Law & Social Inquiry, 2022, 1–30. DOI:10.1017/lsi.2022.63.