Gwendolyn Gordon

Gwendolyn Gordon
  • Assistant Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics

Links: SSRN page


Professor Gwen Gordon passed away in December 2021.
Wharton Press Release

Additional information can be found here:
GWENDOLYN GORDON Obituary (2022) – Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Inquirer (

Gwendolyn Gordon beloved daughter, sister, godmother and friend passed away recently at age 41. Gwen is survived by her mother (Jacqueline), brothers (Andrew, David and Aaron), cousins, godchildren, and an army of close friends. Gwen is predeceased by her father, Andrew Gordon III. Gwen attended college at Cornell University, completed law school at Harvard University, and earned her PhD at Princeton University. Gwen was an accomplished anthropologist, avid fiction writer, and was loved by her students at Penn. Gwen was most proud of the close relationships she had with her family, friends, and godchildren, who adored her and will miss her dearly. A wake was held at TOALE BROTHERS FUNERAL HOME in Bradenton Florida on January 5, 2022 followed by funeral services at Bradenton SDA Church.

Gwen Gordon was appointed to the department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics in 2013. Her research was an ethnographically-informed comparative corporate law, focusing specifically on the intersection of indigenous peoples’ cultural norms with issues of corporate governance and social responsibility. Gwen did long-term ethnographic fieldwork in New Zealand with an indigenously owned corporation. She received a B.A. in 2002 from Cornell University and her J.D. in 2006 from Harvard Law School, where she focused upon social and economic human rights for indigenous groups. She received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Princeton University in 2014; prior to her appointment Gwen worked as a corporate attorney in the London and New York offices of Shearman and Sterling LLP.



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  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2019), Environmental Personhood, .

    Abstract: Parks are people too, my friend. So quipped an August 2016 headline making reference at once to Mitt Romney’s flip commentary on corporations and to recent developments in New Zealand law enabling landscapes to be named as legal persons— that is, as entities possessing juridical rights akin to those of corporations. In the wake of this and other developments of the concept, legal personhood has struck observers as a promising tool for protecting nature—an idea overdue given the now seemingly unexceptional nature of corporate personhood in protecting corporate rights. Far from being the settled, stolid doctrine that its long tenure might have it appear to be, however, corporate personhood is quicksilver; it seems an endlessly adaptable concept. How might we come to understand the environment as a similarly flexible rights-holder in a way that is robustly protective of environmental interests? This Article argues that, as an example of how we came to see a non-human entity as a rights holder, corporate personhood may be a useful tool in moving toward understanding the environment as a rights holder.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2017), Ethical Bankers, .

    Abstract: The capstone of regulatory reform in the wake of the financial crisis has turned out to be an effort to pair substantive changes to the financial industry with an effort to get bankers to behave more ethically. Regulators have emphasized the importance of “culture” set by a “tone at the top” that makes “ethical conduct” a primary organizational value—though they have not given much content to any of these terms. This Article inquires as to what it means to operationalize ethics and culture in a regulatory project and what it tells us about the state of banking and its oversight. The content of these calls for a culture of ethics in banking appears to be an effort to impose the requirements of professional responsibility on a new industry. But banking is no ordinary profession, and the imposition of cultural change is easier said than done. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the merits of a campaign to create ethical bankers, but it may be the most acceptable of an unattractive set of alternatives.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2016), Culture in Corporate Law, Seattle University Law Review, 39 (2), pp. 353-396.

    Abstract: Recent Supreme Court cases have entrenched a new image of cor- porate civic identity, assigning to the corporate person rights and abilities based upon the cultural characteristics, social ties, civic commitments, and internal lives of the human beings involved in it. This vision of the corporation is exemplified in recent cases implicating a corporate right to engage in political speech (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commis- sion) and a right of corporations to be free of government interference regarding religious convictions (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.). Although much is being written about the soundness of the results in the- se cases and potential inconsistencies of the legal analysis that led to the- se results, this Article uses these cases to introduce a normatively potent theoretical perspective on corporate law that has for too long been exiled to the periphery of legal theorizing. When persons, whether corporate or human, interact within a social system, social theories of culture—not just microeconomic theories of individual incentives or ethical theories of individual duty—are required to fully understand the rights, norms, behaviors, and duties of such persons. The law has transformed the corporation into a unique civic person capable of holding and expressing opinions and beliefs to other members of its social community. This de- velopment urgently demands that corporate law scholars take cultural theory seriously if they are to fully understand the rights, norms, behav- iors, and duties of modern corporations. This Article makes the case for the increased centrality of cultural theory within corporate law and lays out some of the major challenges and implications that lie ahead as this development takes hold.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Bones, Breath, Body: The Life of an Indigenously Owned Corporation (Book Project).

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Corporate Contagion: Ethnographic Insights Into the Nature of the Firm.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (Work In Progress), Maori Acumen: Talking Business and Talking Culture in an Indigenously Owned Corporation.

  • Gwendolyn Gordon (2014), History and the Anthropology of Firms: A Legal Perspective, Journal of Business Anthropology, 3 (1).

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