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Constitutional Challenges in Comparative Perspective (356-0-20)


Galya Benarieh Ruffer
Office Hours:
Galya Ben-Arieh, J.D. ,Ph.D., is Professor of Instruction in Political Science. Her teaching and research center on the rights and processes of refugee protection and the role of law in settlement and inclusion in host societies and comparative constitutional theory and transformation. During her 12 years at Northwestern she has directed the International Studies Program (2008-2015), creating the IS Honors Program and the Global Café. An international expert in refugee studies, Ben-Arieh (also known as Galya Ruffer), founded and directed the Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS) which was housed at the Buffett Institute from 2011-2018. She is now continuing this work through the development of a Refugee Knowledge Hub, a community-based partnership providing leadership, knowledge and support for refugees and asylees in our community.

Meeting Info

Harris Hall L28: Mon, Wed 11:00AM - 12:20PM

Overview of class

(This course is also taught as AFST 390-0-20 and POLI_SCI 356) .

In this course we will be looking comparatively at constitutional democracies to better understand the myriad ways in which constitutions are used to establish the powers of government and protect individual rights and liberties. We will learn about the varying traditions of written and unwritten constitutions, civil and common law and the foundations and structures of separation of powers and judicial review as we compare the responses of democratic countries such as the U.S., Canada, India, Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia to emergencies such as COVID-19 and in the application of fundamental liberal rights and liberties to questions of capital crimes, abortion, religion, race and gender. Students will learn to think critically about the U.S. Constitution and the different ways in which constitutional democracies provide for public order, counter-majoritarian governance, equality and protection of the rights of minorities through rule of law and question whether constitutional solutions can address the kinds of social and political problems we have today.

Learning Objectives

1. By engaging with literature and constitutional cases students will gain perspective on the different ways in which democratic societies structure government, freedoms, set out the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and balance the principles and values of liberty, equality and the rights of minorities.
2. Develop skills of comparative legal reasoning
3. By exploring how other democracies address competing claims, respond to threats, diffuse controversy and accommodate different constituencies, gain a better understanding of competing national values, including their own.
4. Develop an ability to think and write more critically about how constitutional law and courts respond differently to political and social issues.

Class Materials (Required)

All materials available on Canvas.

Class Attributes

Social & Behavioral Sciences Distro Area