SMNR: Explorations in Constitutional Law & Politics Around the Globe

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Day Time Location
MON, TUE 5:45 - 7:35 pm JON 6.207/208

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SEMINAR: EXPLORATIONS IN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW & POLITICS AROUND THE GLOBE Victor Ferreres William Forbath This seminar explores some of the most important constitutional issues around the globe today. We will start with some fundamental questions of constitutional design. Most fundamental of all may be the challenge of creating a durable framework for liberal democracy in the context of nations emerging from tyranny and/or violent ethno-racial conflict. Bills of Rights guaranteeing ethnic and racial equality and the right to vote are not the only tools in the constitution framers’ toolkit. Constitution-framers also have debated and sometimes adopted direct forms of ethno-racial group representation in national legislatures, as well as federalism arrangements that give rival ethno-racial groups their “own” territorial based states or provinces. What are the pros and cons of such devices for overcoming deep conflicts – or at least turning such conflicts away from violence and into more “civilized” form of political strife? What about constitutional provisions that outlaw political parties that preach ethno-racial hatred? Not every effort to constitutionally weld together different ethno-racial groups or “nations” succeeds. The fragility of some efforts gives rise to the recurrent problem of secession. Should constitution-framers make any provision for it? And whether they do or not, how should courts address the issue when it arises – as it has in the recent past, in Canada and in parts of Europe? Here we may also examine the United States’ experience with secession in the nineteenth century. The remainder of the semester will take up a variety of cutting-edge issues in the domain of constitutional rights and their interpretation and enforcement. Here we will examine such topics as the ways different constitutional systems treat “hate speech,” the ways they address lawmakers’ efforts to outlaw various forms of public religious observance like the wearing of the veil or burka, and the ways that courts seek to enforce so-called “positive” or “social” rights like the rights to health, housing, welfare and education. Here, we will make some extensive comparisons of experience in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe. Note: This seminar will be taught during the first half of the Spring Semester.

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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
10/20/2017 Exam information updated