Constitutions at Work: Comparative Perspectives

Course Description: 

This course compares basic notions and institutions of constitutional systems through the lens of constitution-making, separation of powers and constitutional adjudication (constitutional review) in Europe, the Americas, Africa and South Asia. Historic and recent instances of constitution-making are discussed in their broader context. The concept of the written constitution will be nuanced by the operation of unwritten constitutional norms, and will be further sharpened by understandings of constitutional change. Questions of horizontal separation of powers and checks and balances, as well as dilemmas of constitutional review in old and new democracies will be explored through the comparative study of cases and secondary literature. Instead of exploring models and constitutional solutions in the abstract, the course invites students to explore the practical impact and outcomes particular constitutional models produce in practice. As an undercurrent, the course will offer an introduction to the methodological challenges of comparative constitutional analysis.

Learning Outcomes: 

  1. Ability to thinking critically at an intermediate level
  2. Ability to demonstrate substantial knowledge of constitutional law in select jurisdictions –intermediate level
  3. Ability to draw on substantial knowledge of constitutional law for a comparative analysis of related problems – basic level
  4. Ability to actively benefit from comparative constitutional analysis – basic level, applied oral and written skills
  5. Ability to use cases and precedents in constitutional reasoning – intermediate level
  6. Ability to use interdisciplinary resources for comparative constitutional analysis - basic level
  7. Ability to develop policy-relevant constitutional arguments – basic level



Assessment is based on

-       class participation (10 per cent),

-       in-class presentation on an individual research project (10 per cent), 

-       in-class group projects (20 per cent, 10 per cent per project),

-       three (3) written assignments to be submitted during the course (30 per cent, 10 per cent per project) and

-       a final comparative research paper (30 percent).

There will be no final in class exam in this course.