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Constitutionalism after Empire (LAWS90142)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90142
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject seeks to provide an overview of the theory and practice of constitutionalism in four countries in South and South East Asia: India, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Two of these are among the largest, most pluralistic nations in the world, while the remaining two are small island states. All four nations experienced long periods of colonial rule, which continues to have a decisive impact on their post-colonial legal and constitutional orders. The experience of colonialism contrasts quite starkly from those nations which were settler colonies, and this is an important focus of the course. In each of these nations, discussions about constitutionalism have become enmeshed within larger societal debates about economic development, cultural values, and human rights. The subject instructor has first-hand experience of research and teaching constitutional law in two of the four jurisdictions.

Principal topics include:

  • Brief overview of the field of comparative constitutionalism, and methodological approaches to the discipline
  • A broad introduction to the four jurisdictions, covering national histories, and their economic, social and political dimensions
  • A focus on the colonial experience in the four jurisdictions and the nature of the colonial economy, and its politics
  • The process of decolonization and the constitutional politics that was engendered as a result
  • An examination of the post-colonial Constitutions adopted in these countries, with an emphasis on rights provisions
  • Broad overview of post-colonial trajectories of the four jurisdictions, and their assessments by scholars
  • The policies of economic development that were followed and the impact on constitutional politics
  • Debates about culture, human rights and ‘Asian Values’.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Obtain a sophisticated understanding of debates in the field of comparative constitutional law and methodological approaches
  • Develop an advanced level of understanding of constitutional politics to complement the knowledge of her own constitutional system
  • Obtain a more comprehensive grasp of the complexities that impact the constitutional health of a polity, by focusing on a range of situations beyond the default cases
  • Develop an updated appreciation for the continuing influence of patterns of colonialism on the contemporary legal orders of former colonies and be able to distinguish between policies in settler and non-settler colonies
  • Be exposed to a range of debates around 'Asian Values' that pose a challenge to mainstream understandings of universal human rights
  • Be exposed to the novel challenges confronted by leaders of new nations that sought to reverse colonialism and pursue economic development while simultaneously embracing forms of constitutionalism
  • Have a more nuanced understanding of the competing pulls and pressures of securing economic development while seeking to entrench forms of liberal constitutionalism
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to comparative constitutional law and rights, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

An undergraduate subject on constitutional law in any jurisdiction.

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.



  • Class participation (10%)
  • Comment/response paper submitted during class (1,000 words) (10%) (11 December)
  • Take-home examination (4,000 - 5,000 words) (80%) (3 - 6 January 2020)

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

Not available in 2019

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    Specialist materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 20 July 2019