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Dr Kevin Sobel-Read


Newcastle Law School (Law)

Career Summary


I am a US-trained lawyer, legal scholar and anthropologist. I received my Bachelor of Arts (BA) from New York University (1999), my Juris Doctor (JD) from the New York University School of Law (2002), and my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Cultural Anthropology, with a sub-specialty in Legal Anthropology, from Duke University, USA (2012). My doctoral thesis, entitled “Sovereignty, Law, and Capital in the Age of Globalization,” drew on fieldwork conducted in and around Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the Cook Islands, and is also based on preliminary research among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, USA. I have previously been a Senior Lecturing Fellow in Duke University’s School of Law and a Visiting Assistant Professor in Duke’s Department of Cultural Anthropology where I also served as the JD/MA Program Coordinator. I likewise have a decade of experience practising complex civil litigation with Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York City and with Ellis & Winters LLP in North Carolina, USA.

Research Expertise
My research follows two parallel and overlapping paths that continue my interest in corporate commerce and sovereignty. On the one hand I explore the role of global supply chains – in the form of what have been termed “global value chains” – in fundamentally transforming the way that international commerce takes place, both within and across borders, with consequences to nearly all aspects of policy and regulation. On the other hand, I am interested in the subjective understandings that drive different groups to engage in the global economy differently. So firstly, I seek to integrate into legal scholarship the insights of the robust and multidisciplinary body of academic literature on global value chains. This “global value chain” label is one that scholars have devised to address what global supply chains have become in the contemporary global political economy. In short, many outdated models suggest that multinational corporations – either individually or through one-to-one supplier relationships – create, manufacture, and sell a given product.

But in the contemporary world, the design, production, and retail of most products take place through global value chains, that is, through coordinated chain components that stretch systemically across multiple – from a few to a few thousand – firms around the planet. Further, this shift is no trivial exception but is instead paradigmatic: today, more than two-thirds of all transnational trade is conducted by multinational corporations and a full half of that trade – one third of all transnational trade – is between corporate subsidiaries. As such, global value chains now anchor the world political economy, uniting public and private actors in novel ways and on an unprecedented scale. Therefore, from tragic textile factory fires in Bangladesh to the competitiveness of Woolworths supermarkets, global value chains have become an indispensable component for understanding the world political economy and the role of law within it.

At the same time, my research explores relationships among capital flows, sovereignty, and globalisation by examining the subjective forces that drive the varying ways that different groups engage with the global market (which is frequently, though not always, by means of global value chains). In particular, I develop a model of sovereignty, including Indigenous sovereignty, that illustrates how contemporary nation-state sovereignty must be made up of both: (1) subjective elements related to local interests (some might say “culture”) that are largely unique to each state; and (2) uniform elements that allow the sovereignty in the form of the state – including the state’s management of private commerce – to interface, that is to say, in essence, to do business together; that interface is primarily one of law.

Teaching Expertise
I have extensive teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including substantive legal courses, legal research-and-writing courses, and interdisciplinary courses about law and its social context. Here at the Newcastle Law School, I lecture in Contracts, Commercial Law and International Trade Law. Previously, at Duke University's Law School and in its Department of Cultural Anthropology, I taught, among others, courses in: Emerging International Business Practices: from Global Supply Chains to Global Value Chains; Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing for International Students; Sexuality and the Law; Human Rights: Law and Globalization; Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; and Anthropology of Law.

I am currently part of an international research collaboration called FIMECC REBUS. This extensive project is driven jointly by seven academic institutions in Finland and almost two dozen industry partners, likewise in Finland. The project focuses on evolving business relationships in the contemporary global political economy. As the Program Plan states, the project seeks to gain both “theoretical and practical knowledge” in order to study and make industry-specific recommendations in regard to the current global shift “from transactional (short term and highly market based) business relationships towards more relational ones highlighting collaborative advantage and deep interaction.”


  • PhD (Cultural Anthropology), Duke University - USA
  • Juris Doctor, New York University
  • Master of Arts (Cultural Anthropology), Duke University - USA


  • Commercial Law
  • Contracts
  • Global Supply Chains in the form of Global Value Chains
  • International Law
  • International Trade Law


  • Swedish (Fluent)
  • French (Working)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
180199 Law not elsewhere classified 80
160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology 10
180119 Law and Society 10

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
Newcastle Law School

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2013 - 1/05/2014 Senior Lecturing Fellow Duke University
School of Law
United States
1/07/2012 - 1/05/2014 Visiting Assistant Professor Duke University Department of Cultural Anthropology
United States


Code Course Role Duration
LAWS5061/6018 Commercial Law
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
Course Coordinator/Lecturer 24/02/2015 - 2/06/2015
LAWS5027/6085 International Trade Law
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
Course Corrdinator/Lecturer 28/07/2015 - 3/11/2015
LAWS6004B Contracts
Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle
Course Coordinator/Lecturer 28/07/2015 - 3/11/2015


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Journal article (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Sobel-Read KB, 'A New Model of Sovereignty in the Contemporary Era of Integrated Global Commerce: What Anthropology Contributes to the Shortcomings of Legal Scholarship', Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 49 1045-1107 (2016) [C1]
Co-authors Kevin Sobel-Read
2014 Sobel-Read KB, 'Global Value Chains: A Framework for Analysis', Transnational Legal Theory, 5 364-407 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.5235/20414005.5.3.364
Co-authors Kevin Sobel-Read
2006 O'Toole LC, Sobel-Read KB, 'Pharmacist Refusals: A New Twist on the Debate Over Individual Autonomy', Gender Medicine, 3 13-17 (2006)
DOI 10.1016/S1550-8579(06)80190-7
Co-authors Kevin Sobel-Read

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Total current UON EFTSL


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2014 PhD Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards PhD (Law), Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor


Rural Land Use and Community Research Network

Rural Land Use and Community Research Network

June 22, 2017

Dr Hedda Askland and colleagues from UON and Europe have been awarded funding by the Faculty of Education and Arts (FEDUA) to establish the Rural Land Use and Community Research Network to bring together local and international scholars working in the area of rurality and community, rural land use change and conflict, and migration and mobility. The aim of the network is to explore rurality (as locality) through the lens of global movement, as it manifests through the movement of people (e.g. urban-­‐rural migration, asylum seekers and refugees), minerals (e.g. coal and gas), and agricultural products.

Newcastle Law School Students on Legal Internship in the Cook Islands

July 4, 2016

The Newcastle Law School has recently been featured in a press release from the Cook Islands Office of the Public Service Commissioner

Dr Kevin Sobel-Read


Newcastle Law School
Faculty of Business and Law

Focus area


Contact Details

Phone (02) 4921 6613
Fax (02) 4921 6931


Room X-545
Building NeW Space
Location City Campus