Alumni Short

Constitution and Society Colloquium Welcomes Distinguished Visitors

"Teaching a joint colloquium with Mike Dorf in the Law School this year has been a joy and a challenge," says Sidney Tarrow, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor Emeritus in the Government Department at Cornell and a visiting professor at the Law School, "a joy because it has exposed me to a scintillating colleague and to engaged and thoughtful students; and challenging because it has exposed me to a scintillating colleague and to engaged and thoughtful students."

The Colloquium on Constitution and Society, which examines the processes by which social and constitutional change interact, has welcomed visiting scholars in law, political science, and related fields to present works in progress throughout the term.

"Students and scholars of constitutional law know instinctively that understandings of the Constitution evolve in response to, and in turn shape, social movements," says Michael Dorf, the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law. "We see the evidence in the law governing race relations, sex equality, gun control, same-sex marriage, and a host of other subjects. Yet lawyers rarely pause to go beyond that banal observation. Collaborating on this colloquium with Sid Tarrow--who literally wrote the book on social movements--has been a wonderful opportunity to drill down into the deep connections between American society and American constitutionalism."

On October 18, the colloquium welcomed Richard H. Pildes, faculty advisor at the Center on Law and Security and the Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law. One of the nation's leading scholars of public law, Pildes is co-author of the casebook The Law of Democracy , and his work has been cited numerous times by the United States Supreme Court.

Pildes' presentation on "Law and the President," a critique of the recently published book The Executive Unbound by Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, addressed the questions "how much does law constrain the exercise of presidential power?" and "how much should it?" Opening the discussion to a room packed with students and visitors (including former Justice Department official Dawn Johnsen) Pildes then fielded comments touching on everything from Abraham Lincoln to the recent U.S. military action in Libya.

Two weeks later, an eager audience once again filled the colloquium classroom, this time for "Post-Communism, Neo-Fascism and Political Opportunism: A Perfect Hungarian (Legal) Storm," presented by Kim Lane Scheppele. Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) and Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, Scheppele spent half of the years between 1994 and 2004 living in Hungary and then in Russia, studying the countries' Constitutional Courts and the influence of their new constitutions.

Scheppele shared insights from her extensive research on the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen, an artifact regarded by Hungarians as embodying the country's sovereignty and, of late, employed by Hungary's growing conservative powers as a crucial constitutional symbol. As Scheppele explained to colloquium attendees, she believes that the object can be reclaimed by the opposition through a reinterpretation that reflects its long, varied, and multicultural history.

Constitution and Society Colloquium--Fall 2011

  • Joseph Margulies, Clinical Professor of Law and Assistant Director of the MacArthur Justice Center, Northwestern University School of Law, "The Dark Side of the Creed: Stable Values and Constructed Meaning in American Thought," 9/12
  • Laurel Fletcher, Clinical Professor of Law, Boalt Law School, University of California, Berkeley, "Transitional Justice," 9/19
  • Michael McCann, the Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, University of Washington, "Beyond Legal Mobilization: Rethinking How Law Matters in the Transpacific Struggles of Filipino Cannery Workers," 10/3
  • Richard Pildes, the Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, NYU School of Law, "Law and the President," 10/17
  • Kim Lane Scheppele, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs, Princeton University, "Creating a History from Which We Follow: Imagined Pasts in Hungarian Constitutional Law," 10/31
  • Eileen McDonough, Professor of Political Science, Northeastern University, "Constitutional Foundations of a Gendered State," 11/14