Saturday, February 20, 2010

Summer 2010 at the Institute for Constitutional History

The Institute for Constitutional History announces two programs for the summer of 2010.

The first is the 2010 Summer Research Seminar, “The Economic Constitution: Coercion or Freedom?” It will take place in Washington, D.C. at the George Washington University Law School from June 6 through 11. The instructors are Risa Goluboff, Professor of Law and History and the Caddell & Chapman Research Professor at the University of Virginia, and Avi Soifer, Dean and Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i. The content, format and application process for the seminar is as follows:
Since at least 1913, when Charles Beard published An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, scholars actively pursued ways in which the Constitution relates, or might relate, to economic issues. For Beard, the Constitution reflected the property-protecting instincts of the ruling class. Progressive scholars generally leveled similar accusations at the justices who interpreted the Constitution to protect property rights during the first third of the twentieth century. Yet reading the Constitution as a document that protected the rights of the propertied was only one of many economic Constitutions that people have propounded over the course of American history. Many people have suggested alternative ways in which the Constitution speaks to economic issues.

In the aftermath of Reconstruction, for example, freed slaves claimed constitutional rights to land and livelihoods. During the New Deal and beyond, the question of the federal government’s affirmative obligations to provide security came to the fore. During the 1960s, the welfare rights movement and its allies made claims that the Constitution protected rights to a minimum income. And weaving in and out across the decades, workers argued for rights to organize and bargain; African Americans and others argued for robust understandings of the forms of coercion prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment; and the wandering poor claimed constitutional rights to their vagrancy. This seminar will explore the multiple ways in which Americans have interpreted the Constitution to speak to economic issues. We invite projects that concern the Constitution’s economic dimensions broadly defined, that cover any period within the long sweep of American history, and that hone in on the interpretations of any of the many actors involved in constitutional interpretation—from laypeople to judges, lawyers to legislators, social movement activists to scholars.

We will conduct this seminar as a workshop; we welcome early career scholars and graduate students. We ask that participants identify their topics in advance and provide a short bibliography of suggested shared readings. Our regular meetings will be devoted to discussion of significant texts identified by the conveners and the presentation by participants of early work in progress for comment and refinement. Some time outside the scheduled meetings will be reserved for individual consultation with the seminar leaders.

The seminar will meet at The George Washington University Law School, from June 6 to June 11, 2010. The Institute for Constitutional History will reimburse participants for their travel expenses (up to $350), provide accommodation at The George Washington University, and offer a modest stipend to cover food and additional expenses. Seminar enrollment is limited to fifteen participants.

Applicants for the seminar should send a copy of their curriculum vitae, a brief description (three to five pages) of the research project to be pursued during the seminar, and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, and/or professional development. Materials will be accepted until March 22, 2010, and only by email at Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.
The ICH's second program is the 2010 Interdisciplinary Summer Workshop for College Instructors, “Processes of Constitutional and Legal Change." It will take place in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale Law School from July 11 through 16. The instructors are David Fontana, Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School, and Steven Teles, Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. The announcement follows:
A simple–but crucial–question captures the essence of one of the central scholarly debates regarding American and comparative constitutional law, and all other forms of law: How does law change? This workshop focuses on the question, by discussing several debates that share the common research goal of trying to explain constitutional and other forms of legal change. By examining each of these debates, we can better understand the different ways that law evolves, and we can also understand the successes and failures of scholars in trying to explain that evolution.

On its first day, the workshop will discuss what political and social dynamics lead to the creation of law and legal systems in the first place. Why do some countries create—and succeed—in creating the rule of law, while other countries do not even try, or try and fail? After we better understand how legal systems are created, we will then turn to the different forms of legal systems currently in existence, from the more court-driven common law systems inspired by the British model to the more legislatively-driven civil law systems prevalent in Continental Europe. By examining how the common law and civil law systems rise and fall, the second day of the workshop will give participants a sense of how change transpires within a legal system—after the basic fundamentals for the rule of law are established.

After the workshop discusses these larger, structural dynamics of legal systems, we will focus on changes that take place once the basic structural fundamentals of the legal system are in place. The third day of the workshop will focus on the role that elections play in transforming law. While some political scientists and law professors have proposed that electoral change is the key to explaining change in the law, others have suggested that the professional and expert character of the law insulates it from shifts in popular sentiment.

Our final day of sessions will reverse field, examining the ongoing scholarly debate about whether and how law changes the rest of the political and social world. We will focus primarily on the claim that structural features of the courts severely limit their efficacy as an instrument in driving change, as well as the counterargument that focuses on the indirect effects of legal mobilization.

While the content of each day might change, the theme remains constant: How does law change, and how does law change the world—and how have scholars tried to explain this? Our focus will be both on American law, especially constitutional law, and law in the rest of the world. Each day of the workshop, we will have a session led by a member of the faculty of our host institution, Yale Law School, whose scholarship relates to the particular scholarly debate we are discussing that day. Our Yale Law faculty participants will include Bruce Ackerman, Jack Balkin, and Robert Gordon.

Participants will receive accommodation at the New Haven Hotel and a modest stipend for meals. (All sessions will be held on the campus of Yale Law School, within walking distance of the hotel.) Participants will also receive a travel reimbursement up to $250. Workshop participants are expected to attend all sessions and engage in all program activities.

The summer workshop is designed for college-level instructors who now teach or plan to teach undergraduate courses in constitutional studies, including constitutional history, constitutional law, and related subjects. Instructors who would like to devote a unit of a survey course to constitutional history are also welcome to apply. All college-level instructors are encouraged to apply, including adjuncts and part-time faculty members, from any academic discipline associated with constitutional studies (history, political science, law, anthropology, sociology, literary criticism, etc.). Preference will be given, however, to applicants from the Eastern region of the United States who teach at liberal arts colleges. Foreign nationals teaching outside the United States are not eligible to apply.

To apply, please submit the following materials: a detailed résumé or curriculum vitae with contact information; syllabi from any undergraduate course(s) in constitutional studies you currently teach; a 500-word statement describing your interest in both constitutional studies and this workshop; and a letter of recommendation from your department chair or other professional reference (sent separately by e-mail or post). The application statement should address your professional background, any special perspectives or experiences you might bring to the workshop, and how the workshop will enhance your teaching in constitutional studies.

The deadline for applications is April 1, 2010. Applications should be sent via electronic mail to Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.
For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus, Director, Institute for Constitutional History, The George Washington University Law School, 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052, (202) 994-6562,