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This subject aims to shed light on one of the most important but under-studied topics in comparative public and constitutional law: culture. Culture is meant in a broad sense, encompassing local tradition and distinctiveness but also the shared suppositions and assumptions that animate lawyers, judges, politicians etc. when they interact with or apply constitutional rules and norms. Cultural factors animate many constitutional practices in a way that is very important but hard to see and unpack. Cultural forces also shape our understanding and observation of constitutional practice. Constitutional design and peace making/institution building are hugely influenced by culture.
Despite the significance of culture on the field, there is very little scholarship on the topic, and this subject fills a gap in the study of comparative public law.
Looking at literature from several disciplines, as well as case studies of cultural impact on public law from different jurisdictions, we explore the nature of culture; methodologies for understanding its impact; and that impact itself. We will also explore the complex ways in which culture itself changes, often in an unpredictable and non-linear manner. Understanding culture can be a bridge to comprehending differences in constitutional practice and design between global south north and global north. It can also help us adapt constitutional institutions and practices to local context, and see the challenges that face such adaptation. These issues are crucial for comparative law on a global scale. The subject will help future public law practitioners deal with the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Principal topics are likely to include:
- The meaning and properties of culture
- Types of culture relevant to constitutional law and practice
- Constitutions as culture
- Culture and comparative method
- Culture and adjudication, including reference to foreign sources
- Culture in the context of constitution-making and change.
- International law and culture
- Use and abuse of culture.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Explain and analyse the meaning and properties of culture, generally and the ways it interacts with the context of Constitutions.
- Critically appraise the relevance of culture for comparative constitutional law and apply the methodological tools to draw on it.
- Recognise and accommodate culture in the context of constitution making and change.
- Integrate and synthesise knowledge gained from effective engagement with culture while avoiding abuse of the concept.
- Construct and defend arguments on the relevance of culture in the context of international law and practice.
- The ability to investigate, evaluate, synthesise and apply understanding of culture in a variety of constitutional contexts
- Well-developed problem solving abilities in this field.
- Advanced competencies in legal research and analysis in matters involving culture and public law.
- The capacity to effectively communicate complex legal ideas in this area.
- Appreciation of the design, conduct and reporting of original research in this field.
- Understanding of the significance and value of knowledge about the interaction of culture and constitutions.
Last updated: 10 November 2023