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Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conference at IU to explore constitutionalism in pan-Asia region

Feb. 22, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Distinguished scholars from Indiana University, the Australian National University and other institutions will meet next month to address challenges to constitutional democracy in Asia from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.

The symposium, "Difference and Constitutionalism in Asia," will take place March 4-5 in the Moot Court Room of the IU Maurer School of Law, 211 S. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington. All panel discussions will be open to the public.

Hosts include the IU Maurer School of Law, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the Center for the Study of the Middle East, the Center for Constitutional Democracy and the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute, a partnership of Indiana University and the Australian National University (ANU). Drawing on the strengths in area studies of IU and ANU, the conference will provide a foundation for examining similarities and differences in the experiences of countries in the pan-Asia region.

In the past 20 years, at least a dozen countries in the region have proposed or adopted new constitutions or made important changes in existing constitutions. Much of the impetus has come from political and social pressures generated by lines of division and difference within societies.

"The pan-Asia region provides a particularly good context for the comparative analysis of constitutionalism and difference," said Susan Williams, Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law and director of the Center for Constitutional Democracy. "Stretching from the Middle East through Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia to East Asia and the Pacific, this region covers a hugely diverse collection of countries. Most of the possible variations of history, culture, politics and law that might affect the role of constitutionalism can be found within the region."

Panels for the symposium will be organized around five themes -- gender, ethnicity and race, the urban-rural divide, religion and language -- and each panel will include speakers addressing a range of Asian sub-regions, promoting comparative and cross-cultural exchanges.

Joining more than a dozen IU experts on regions of Asia and aspects of constitutionalism, panelists from Duke and Georgetown universities, the Australian National University, the University of Toronto, and the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) in Thailand will take part in the symposium.

The symposium will further the development of the Center on Constitutional Democracy, the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute and IU's newest Title VI National Resource Center, the Center for the Study of the Middle East, while expanding the knowledge base about how constitutions can manage difference productively. The goal is to contribute to building more stable and democratic governments in countries around the world.

Further details, including a conference program, can be found at For more information, contact Melissa Biddinger, associate director of the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute, at 812-855-0269 or