Michigan Law Professor Gabriel Mendlow has been awarded a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to pursue a book project that will focus on the criminalization of thought in Anglo-American law and legal philosophy. NEH Fellowships are prestigious and highly competitive awards granted to individual scholars pursuing projects that embody exceptional research, rigorous analysis, and clear writing. 

“I’m very grateful to the NEH for offering me this fellowship,” Mendlow said. “I’m also grateful to Congress and the public for continuing to support research in the humanities.”

Mendlow will use his $60,000 award to research and write a book called Thought Crime while on leave from the Law School during the 2021–2022 academic year. Although the ban on thought crime is a bedrock axiom of western jurisprudence, Mendlow’s book on the topic will be the first ever written. “The book will try to reconcile two clashing fixtures of the Anglo-American legal and philosophical traditions: on one side, a long-standing commitment to the immunity of thought, and, on the other, a growing enthusiasm for a style of criminalization that treats the mental states behind a person’s conduct as crimes in their own right,” Mendlow said. “This clash is an important battle in a larger war, a war that pits our commitment to freedom of thought against our often legitimate interest in regulating the human mind, in everything from education to mental health to online privacy.”

Mendlow is one of 81 scholars to receive an NEH Fellowship this year, and the only one based in a law school. He is one of six scholars to win funding for a project in philosophy. The NEH typically receives more than 1,100 fellowship applications each year.

Mendlow teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and moral, political, and legal philosophy. In addition to teaching at the Law School, he is a professor of philosophy at U-M. He joined Michigan Law in 2013 after serving as a postdoctoral associate in law and philosophy at Yale University, a law clerk for Justice Richard N. Palmer of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and a federal prosecutor in Detroit. He previously was awarded fellowships by the Jacob K. Javits Program and the Institute for Humane Studies.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

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