Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Constitutional Norms, Conflict and Change

The Bonnie and Richard Reiss Graduate Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce its fall 2020 seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty, Constitutional Norms, Constitutional Conflict, and Informal Constitutional Change, to held virtually from 2-5 pm, Fridays, October 9 and 23, November 6 and 20, 2020.

A great deal of the American constitutional order does not derive directly from, and cannot be understood solely with reference to, the text of the written Constitution. Instead, it often emerges from high-intensity conflict—what scholars have termed “constitutional hardball”—over the existence, meaning, and application of unwritten constitutional norms. In four virtual sessions, Josh Chafetz and David Pozen will lead discussions on the origins, functions, and mutability of these norms, with special attention paid to 20th- and 21st-century instances of intense constitutional conflict.

Instructors.  Josh Chafetz is a professor of law at Georgetown University. In 2019-2020, he served as a member of the American Political Science Association Presidential Task Force on Congressional Reform. David Pozen is Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where he teaches and writes about constitutional law, information law, and nonprofit law, among other topics.
Logistics.  The seminar will be presented virtually, via Zoom, on the following dates:

    Friday, October 9, 2020 | 2–5 PM
    Friday, October 23, 2020 | 2–5 PM
    Friday, November 6, 2020 | 2–5 PM
    Friday, November 20, 2020 | 2–5 PM

Accepted students will receive instructions for accessing the virtual sessions. Zoom, an easy-to-use video conferencing platform, requires no special login or membership.

Application Process
.  The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines. All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions. Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar. Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities.

Space is limited. To apply, please submit the following material to by August 19, 2020: (1) Your C.V.; and (2) A short statement on how this seminar will be useful to you in your research, teaching, or professional development.

Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter. For further information, please email Alexander Kassl at

Additional information.  There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.

The Bonnie and Richard Reiss Graduate Institute for Constitutional History (ICH) is the nation’s premier institute dedicated to ensuring that future generations of Americans understand the substance and historical development of the U.S. Constitution. Located at the New York Historical Society, the Institute is co-sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Political Science Association. The Association of American Law Schools is a cooperating entity. ICH prepares junior scholars and college instructors to convey to their readers and students the important role the Constitution has played in shaping American society. ICH also provides a national forum for the preparation and dissemination of humanistic, interdisciplinary scholarship on American constitutional history.

The Bonnie and Richard Reiss Graduate Institute for Constitutional History is supported, in part, by the Saunders Endowment for Constitutional History and a “We the People” challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities