Your browser does not support JavaScript

Anna Su

Anna Su

S.J.D. 2013

Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellow in Ethics, Harvard University

asu at


The Law on Religious Liberty and the Rise of American Power

My dissertation is a history of how and why the U.S. government promoted religious freedom through and by law, and how those understandings of religious freedom changed throughout the years. It argues that the contemporary “international legal regime of religious freedom,” that is, the religious freedom provisions in various international legal instruments, regional human rights conventions and national constitutions, is, to a significant extent, founded by American power. American official understandings of religious freedom have changed accordingly however. The chapters in this dissertation correspond to both the chronology and the themes of that transformation, starting with the promotion or export of religious freedom as part of a civilizing mission, and then as an essential component of a democratic order and lastly, and in fact only recently, it became garbed in the language of human rights. A goal of this dissertation is to recast a longstanding debate in international human rights law by acknowledging that the road to such laws was paved with imperial tendencies and asymmetric exercises of power and therefore clarify the focus on how best to secure these rights internationally.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Law, Religion and Government with Professor Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Law in Social Thought with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • History of Western Constitutional Thought with Professor David Armitage, Department of History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Harvard University

Additional Research Interests

  • 20th century U.S. Constitutional History
  • Law & History of U.S. Foreign Relations
  • Religion and International Law
  • Postcolonial Legal Studies


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2008-2013
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program 2007-2008
  • Ateneo de Manila Law School, Philippines, J.D. 2005
  • Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, A.B. Political Science 2001

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard University, 2012-2013, Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowship in Ethics
  • Harvard Law School, 2011-2012, Clark Byse Fellowship
  • Harvard Law School, 2008-2011, Graduate Program, Constitutional Law Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard Law School, Summer Academic Fellow, 2010 and 2011
  • Harvard College, General Education Program, Spring 2011, Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard College, Dept of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Fall 2009, Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard College, Dept of Government, 2008-2009, Teaching Fellow

Representative Publications

  • Religious Law as Foreign Law in Constitutional Interpretation (forthcoming, International Journal of Constitutional Law) (with Adam Shinar)
  • The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 54 J. Church & St.732 (2010) (book review)
  • Islam and the Shar’ia in a Proposed Bangsamoro Islamic State, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Institutional Reform Paper Series, Manila, Philippines (2009)
  • Divided We Stand: The Case for an Islamic State in a Federal Philippines, Ateneo Law Journal, July 2009

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, Filipino, Chinese, Arabic

Last Updated: March 12, 2015