Research Interests Draw Alumnus Back to Department

October 15, 2009

After earning his Ph.D. in political science from Notre Dame in 2004, Daniel Brinks returned two years later to spend 2006–07 as a visiting fellow at the University's Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Now he's back on a more permanent basis, having joined the department's faculty as an associate professor this fall.

A child of American parents living in Argentina, Brinks left his country of birth in 1979 during one of the most politically violent times in that nation's recent history.

"Whether or not you were directly involved, it was hard not to feel the shockwaves of violence," Brinks remembers. And it's clear that the lack of government accountability and legal recourse he witnessed as a young man in Argentina has informed his career path.

Brinks earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan and practiced law for 10 years before moving into academia. Having seen how the law can and cannot work for people and institutions, he was inspired to study the role of the law and courts in guaranteeing democratic and constitutional rights, especially in Latin America.

He joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, home to a Top 25 political science department, straight out of graduate school and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in just five years. But it wasn't a difficult decision to come back to Notre Dame.

"I was eager to re-enter the academic community here," he says. "There is always a lively discussion going on about social justice, democracy, human rights—and that's the conversation I wanted to participate in."

In addition to his appointment in the Department of Political Science, Brinks is a faculty fellow at the Kellogg Institute. "Kellogg houses an interesting interdisciplinary group of permanent and visiting international scholars on campus," he says. "You can sample the research being done around the world without leaving Notre Dame."

Brinks is currently at work on a follow-up to his co-edited volume Courting Social Justice: Judicial Enforcement of Social and Economic Rights in the Developing World, looking at who wins and who loses when courts get more involved in the design and implementation of social policies.

"I'm interested in whether the courts improve the situation or target social policy more to the privileged—people who have access to lawyers and courts," he says.

Associate Professor Andrew Gould is among the faculty who knew Brinks as a student and now welcome him as a colleague.

"He took my course on research methods in his first semester as a graduate student," Gould says. "A few years later, he was handing in drafts of his dissertation chapters, and it was obvious how much he had accomplished and would accomplish in the course of a stellar career."