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Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paths to Democracy: An International Conversation about Constitutional Stories

Sept. 20, 2007

David Williams

David Williams

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Constitutionalists from around the world will gather Sept. 25-27 at Indiana University Bloomington to consider the dynamic processes of constitutional narrative during an interdisciplinary conference, "Paths to Democracy: An International Conversation about Constitutional Stories."

Co-sponsored by the IU School of Law-Bloomington and the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, the event will be held at the law school. Two storytellers from each of six countries -- Spain, South Africa, Burma, Liberia, Mexico and Kyrgyzstan -- will share their nation's paths to constitutional democracy and the role the constitution played in this process.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, the conference will be open to the public for a special event from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the law school's Moot Court Room (Room 123). Conference participants will discuss the divergent national narratives as well as common themes across the constitutional stories. The audience will be invited to ask questions and offer comments on the presentations.

According to conference co-organizer David C. Williams, the John S. Hastings Professor of Law at IU and director of the Center on Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies, the conference concept is derived from the idea that countries walk different paths to constitutional democracy, but that the journeys produce profoundly important stories.

Through these stories, citizens understand the meaning of their own history, identity and collective existence, Williams said. The storytelling illuminates shared values, fosters civic trust, affirms common worth and foreshadows a livable future.

Throughout the conference and during the open session, participants will explore the values and institutions that these stories imply, exemplify or question; discuss the lessons they offer to citizens and officeholders; examine the roles of nationalism and identity; look at how the stories provide guidance for the challenges of constitutional democracy; and clarify the contested areas of the stories and the sources of potential conflict and disagreement.

For more information on the conference, visit