Constitutional Politics Lecture Series
Talk by Prof. Dr. Zachary Elkins (University of Texas at Austin)
The Art and Science of Constitution Making
On July 09, 2015 we had the opportunity to welcome Prof. Zachary Elkins at Humboldt-Universität Berlin discussing constitutional politics and in particular his newest project, the website website constituteproject.org.
Prof. Elkins earned his B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is Associate Professor at the University of Texas, Austin.
He is currently completing a book manuscript, Designed by Diffusion: Constitutional Reform in Developing Democracies, which examines the design and diffusion of democratic institutions, and recently completed The Endurance of National Constitutions, which explores the factors that lead to the survival of national constitutions.
With Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago), Professor Elkins co-directs both the Comparative Constitutions Project, a NSF-funded initiative to understand the causes and consequences of constitutional choices, and the website constituteproject.org, which provides resources and analysis for constitutional drafters in new democracies.
This project, constitute, which is funded by google ideas, was at the center of Prof. Elkins presentation. Within the framework of our research lab, the failed constitution making process in Turkey is part of a variety of research endeavors, among them most importantly the collection, analysis and evaluation of the protocols and accompanying documents of the constitution making process (among them e.g. drafts, newspaper article and protocols). To embed the knowledge we gain from this analysis in a broader perspective of comparative constitutionalism constitute will serve as one tool to relate the Turkish discussion to constitutions worldwide.
As Prof. Elkins explained that “Constitute allows you to interact with the world’s constitutions in a few different ways”, most importantly to filter the searches, to find relevant sections in an easy way, to view excerpts in lists and even compare them and to pin the results for further analysis. Constitutional drafting was always a form of observing functioning and non-functioning constitutions and applying them to a specific context. This was also the case during the negotiations in the Turkish constitution making and amendment process since 2011. We expect – however we have not gone this far in our evaluation of the documents – that constitutional drafters, also in Turkey, are increasingly turning to online resources, searching for different approach towards judicial authority, human rights or executive-legislative relations. Prof. Elkins’ presentation provided us with the necessary insight into the logic of the constitute project to incorporate its logic in our own analysis.