Center for Comparative Constitutionalism


The Center for Comparative Constitutionalism studies the definition and implementation of constitutional rights, focusing both on legal and judicial interpretation and on the wide range of ways in which societies attempt to secure constitutional rights to their citizens.

In this time of rapid globalization, the structures through which states define and implement rights are shifting, under pressure from both the global economy and other new connections across national boundaries. Because these rights operate in the context of the modern regulatory state and economy, it is necessary to consider not only legislatures and courts, but also administrative agencies and corporations. Social forces of many kinds affect the definition and implementation of constitutional rights, and the correlative duties and responsibilities of citizens. Religion, nongovernmental organizations, social movements, and education (including legal education) are major factors in determining whether rights that exist on paper become real in practice. The Center studies these varied social forces and their interactions. The Center will focus primarily on the concerns of groups and individuals who have traditionally been marginalized or subordinated in society: women, the poor, and ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Its focus will be on the extent to which different regimes of constitutional law (and constitutional rights more broadly construed) can contribute globally to the dignity, equality, responsibilities, and integration of such people and groups.

One area of study will be the recognition of group rights, and whether such rights are an effective and appropriate mechanism by which constitutional law can attempt to rectify longstanding inequalities. Many nations give religious groups special roles, creating systems of religious "personal law" that govern family and property law. Other nations try to rectify inequalities by extending special rights to ethnocultural, genderbased, or caste-based groups.

Another area of study will be the role of the legal profession and its academic discourse. In some nations, the legal profession has been a serious force for social change. In others, it is seen as a civil service career, and people have little confidence in its ability to implement rights.