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Restless and Curious, Scheppele Plys the World to Study New Democracies and Their Constitutions 1 - 2 - 3

John J. O’Brien Professor of Comparative Law

 
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KIM LANE SCHEPPELE is a nomad. Her restless energy takes her from place to place in hot pursuit of new ideas. No surprise, then, that Scheppele, a pioneer in comparative law, wants to start a new field of legal scholarship. She calls it constitutional ethnography.

“Usually people who study constitutional law sit around and read books about it,” says Scheppele. “Ethnographers, on the other hand, tend to study different forms of culture other than law. What I’m trying to do is bring these two branches together by going off and living in the countries that I study.”

By doing so, Scheppele seems intent on emulating Margaret Mead, as she investigates how laws and constitutions develop in much the way that the famed anthropologist bunked down to study the habits of South Seas islanders.

Since the 1990s, Scheppele’s intellectual wanderlust has led her to extended stays in Hungary and Russia, where, in both countries, she observed up close what democratic government and a constitution mean to people who have never had either.


 
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