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
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.