Professor Cornell has written in the fields of German Idealism and Critical Theory, including contemporary French Philosophy. In the last ten years, her research has focused on feminist theory, race critical theory, and more specifically, on the substantive revolution of South Africa. In 2003, she founded the uBuntu Project, which both researched and advocated for the significance of indigenous ideals and values such as uBuntu in the new dispensation. The project advocated for the reconstitutionalization of uBuntu at the level of the constitutional court. Since that time the court has developed a rich uBuntu jurisprudence. The project works closely with both members of the court and parliament and holds yearly seminars at the University of Pretoria.
She lectures widely and has recently given papers and conducted seminars in South Africa, Japan, Serbia, and Macedonia. In March 2003, she will deliver the prestigious Ryle Lectures at Trent University in Canada.