Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Adrienne Stone

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition of “Five Questions with … ” features Adrienne Stone of Melbourne Law School. Her full bio follows below:

Adrienne Stone holds a Chair at Melbourne Law School where she is also an ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow and Director of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies.

She researches in comparative constitutional law and constitutional theory with particular attention to freedom of expression. Her Laureate Fellowship on the theme ‘Balancing Diversity and Social Cohesion in Democratic Constitutions’ investigates how constitutions, in their design and in their application, can unify while nurturing the diversity appropriate for a complex, modern society. Her work appears in leading journals including the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, the International Journal of Constitutional Law, the Toronto Law Journal and the Melbourne Law Review. With Cheryl Saunders, she is editor of the Oxford Handbook on the Australian Constitution.

She is First Vice President of the International Association of Constitutional Law; immediate Past Vice President of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law and is an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. Through the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies she is extensively engaged with government and non-governmental organisations including as a  a member of the Advisory Committee for the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Traditional Rights and Freedoms.

She is a member of the editorial advisory board for Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law, Public Law Review and the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law. She is an editor of the IACL-AIDC Blog.

She has taught at law schools in Australia, the United States and Canada and delivered papers and lectures by invitation at numerous universities in Australia, North America, Europe and Asia.

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

I’m starting two new projects, both funded by the Australian Research Council. The first project is on tolerance in universities. My collaborator is freedom of religion scholar Carolyn Evans, who is also my Dean. The second, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, will investigate challenges for constitutions in highly diverse multicultural societies. I am also working on proportionality as Australia (at last) is having a proportionality moment that is a providing a very interesting study of the anxieties inspired by the arrival of a transnational legal idea in a local context. I’m close to completing to co-edited volumes: The Oxford Handbook on the Australian Constitution with Cheryl Saunders and a collection of essays on the theme “The Invisible Constitution” with Rosalind Dixon.

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

I pride myself on being able to write anywhere–on planes, libraries, in a cafe, in the car while waiting to pick up my kids and I always carry a laptop. But my favourite place to write is at home. More significant than place for me is time: when at all possible, I write for a few hours  first thing in the morning before being distracted by all the other aspects of academic life: my research Centre, my students, the need for coffee, the temptation to gossip with colleagues. It’s a rule that is broken more often than I like to admit but I do it most days and it has been an incredibly valuable practice.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

I read as broadly and eclectically as I can across constitutional law and constitutional theory but I should mention two of my Australian colleagues in particular: Cheryl Saunders whose truly global focus on comparative constitutional law continues to inform and inspire me and legal philosopher Jeffrey Goldsworthy, with whom I usually disagree but from whom I always learn. When it comes to freedom of speech, I read as much as I can by the leading US scholars  again with special attention to those with whom I find myself in disagreement. I balance that with the burgeoning scholarship on freedom of expression coming out of other places, like Asia and with the work of feminist scholars.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a law student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

The most important early influences on my academic life lie  in legal theory and philosophy. Jeremy Waldron’s  Law and Disagreement, from which I take the ideal that we should structure our institutions so as to deal respectfully with disagreement, is one. Fred Schauer’s book Free Speech: A Philosophical Enquiry still provides the organising concepts for my thinking about freedom of speech. Rae Langton’s work on freedom of speech and pornography simply dazzled me for her conscription of analytical philosophy of language to cause–a feminist analysis of freedom of speech–otherwise pursued mainly by critical legal scholars.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

First, I don’t think we know yet how to think about freedom of speech in this era of ‘post-fact’ politics. More generally, I think there is a lot of scope to think more deeply about the relationship between constitutional theory and comparative constitutional law. Constitutional theory typically presents itself as if it is globally applicable yet it conceals assumptions that are context specific and which comparativism can uncover. How constitutional theory responds to this challenge is a fascinating question.


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