Austin Sarat is interested broadly in the cultural and social life of American law. He is currently pursuing several lines of research, among are the American values and beliefs revealed by state killings. Sarat uses the death penalty as a lens through which to view ideas about responsibility and blame, pain and its proper uses, race and fairness, mercy and the possibilities of redemption. Sarat recently completed a book-length study of the decline of executive clemency in capital cases and a study of race and capital punishment in the United States.
Sarat's research also focuses on the cultural life of law or law in popular culture. He is now writing a book entitled Hollywood’s Law: What Movies Do for Democracy. This book examines movies about law from 1950 to 2000 in order to understand how these films contribute to the development of democratic citizenship.
At Amherst College, Sarat teaches an introduction to Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought and a first-year Seminar, Secrets and Lies, and a class about murder.