PUBLISHED:April 25, 2011

CICL-CLRP scholarship roundtable focuses on challenges to democracy in divided societies

A diverse group of scholars, economists, and political scientists participated in a workshop at Duke Law School in January to discuss how democracies can be damaged or stalled in fractured societies. The “scholarship roundtable,” was co-sponsored by Duke Law’s Center for Comparative and International Law (CICL), and the Center on Law, Race and Politics (CLRP).

Professor Laurence R. Helfer, who co-directs CICL, said the idea for the roundtable came from an ongoing exchange he’s been having with Professor Guy-Uriel Charles, the director of CLRP.

“Guy and I were discussing the challenges to democracy that exist at various points in a country’s development. In newly independent nations, in countries with governments seeking to establish legitimacy following a regime change or revolution, and in industrialized states, democratic governments face a wide array of challenges. Guy and I noticed that the scholars who analyze these challenges in the United States were not talking to scholars whose work focuses on developing and transitional countries,” Helfer said.

Scholars from other institutes and departments at Duke University and other academic institutions attended the roundtable, along with officials from the International Monetary Fund and USAID. “We invited individuals with extensive field experience in emerging democracies,” Helfer said. “We wanted to begin a conversation between them and the scholarly community. For example, there is a large body of literature in the U.S. about minority representation and electoral monitoring institutions, but much of it is unfamiliar to scholars who study electoral system design and ethnic and minority conflicts in other countries. The roundtable provided an opportunity to jump start discussions across these literatures.”

CICL began its sponsorship of a scholarship roundtable series in 2009, when Helfer arrived at Duke Law School, with the goal of providing an intimate forum for legal scholars and social scientists to discuss their works in progress and receive detailed commentary and feedback from colleagues.