Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Carlos Bernal

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 Carlos Bernal, a leading scholar of constitutional theory and one of the most cited scholars in Latin America–his citation count in that region alone is now well over 20,000. His full bio follows below:

Carlos Bernal is an Associate Professor at Macquarie Law School (Sydney, Australia). He holds an LL.B. from the University Externado of Colombia (Bogotá – Colombia) (1996), an S.J.D. from the University of Salamanca (Spain) (2001), as well as an M.A. (2008) and Ph.D. in Philosophy (2011) from the University of Florida (U.S.A). He has held a visiting professorship at the University of Paris X (Nanterre), and Senior Research Fellowships at the Yale Law School and the Max Plack Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Heidelberg).

His scholarship focuses on the interpretation of constitutional rights, comparative constitutional change, general jurisprudence–in particular on the intersection between social ontology and legal theory–and the philosophical foundations of tort law. He supervises doctoral students in comparative constitutional law and legal theory. He is currently completing a research project on constitutionalism and democratic participation on online platforms.

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

This year I am working on two projects. The first one is on the nature and legitimacy of constitution-making, and how our conceptions about that should impact our recourse to popular engagement in current and future constitution-making procedures by traditional methods (such as referenda) and also innovative on-line strategies. The second project is on the constitutional implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia. 

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

I try to write every day.

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

There are three dimensions relevant to the fields of constitutional theory and comparative constitutional law: the empirical and strategic, the conceptual, and the normative. On the first, the scholars whose work jumps to the top of my reading list are Ran Hirschl, Tom Ginsburg, Ros Dixon, David Landau, Gabriel Negretto, and Javier Couso; on the second, Robert Alexy, Vicky Jackson, Jose Joaquim, Gomes Canothilo, Victor Ferreres, Virgilio Afonso da Silva, Manuel Jose Cepeda, Adrienne Stone, Richard Albert, David Dyzenhaus, and Joel Colon-Rios; and on the third, Jeremy Waldron, Joseph Raz, Juergen Habermas.

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

Alexy’s Theory of Constitutional Rights; Nino’s Fundamentos de derecho constitucional; Kelsen’s 1925 Allgemeine Staatslehre, and Jellinek’s System der subjektiven öffentlichen Rechte.

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

There are many but I will mention only seven:

What criteria (and limits) should guide popular engagement in constitution-making?

How should constitutional change (formal and informal) be constitutionally regulated?

How should big data influence constitutional design and change?

What should be the scope of constitutional rights in transnational law, specifically with respect to the increasing power of transnational corporations?

How should citizenship be understood in our transnational and digital age?

How can constitutionalism and democracy capitalize on the advantages and minimize the risks of the digital age?

How may we improve the use of constitutionalism for improving the life of the most vulnerable people in the global south?


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