Saturday, April 18, 2009
Being in Montreal the last two days for a workshop entitled "Queer Empire" at McGill University organized by Canadian scholars Kim Brooks and Robert Leckey has been quite a treat. The presenters included American ConLaw Profs Kendall Thomas and Kenji Yoshino, as well as a more than a dozen of other scholars working in many disciplines and from various nations including Jaco Barnard, Jon Binnie, Brenda Cossman, Margaret Denike, David Eng, Shohini Ghosh, Ratna Kapur, Jenni Millbank, Les Moran, Chantal Nadeau, Jeff Redding, Becki Ross, and Nan Seuffert. I feel quite privileged to have participated in such a stellar event with amazing brilliance and collegiality - - - a rare combination. It really was a workshop rather than a conference, so I won't be reporting on the presentations; those not present, however, will have the opportunity to read the anthology when it is published next year.
The one regrettable, but certainly understandable, shortcoming of the workshop was that the organizers did not present their own work. I've been familiar with the great work of Kim Brooks on both feminist tax policies and pedagogy for quite some time (see her papers on ssrn here), but was less familiar with Robert Leckey's work. So I've just read his latest piece, Thick Instrumentalism And Comparative Constitutionalism: The Case Of Gay Rights, 40 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 425 (2009), in which Leckey
This Article is a must-read for any scholar “doing” comparative constitutionalism. It is especially important for American scholars, for too often the debate in the States seems to be a simplistic choice between exiling all foreign/international law or referencing foreign/international law. Leckey demonstrates that the matter is not so easily resolved. Moreover, Leckey’s invocation of “thick instrumentalism” is a refreshingly candid approach, as is his argument that there are distinct "roles of the advocate and of the scholar." Leckey argues that dissolving the scholar/advocate distinction does a disservice to both roles, even as he insists on the importance of the integrity of scholarship.
Leckey's article is yet another example of recent scholarship on comparative constitutionalism that uses "gay rights," and more specifically, same-sex marriage legal controversies, as an example. But unlike so many other articles, Leckey makes clear that he has a stake in the outcome of these debates, as a scholar and as a person. And unlike many other articles, Leckey provides much guidance for other scholars engaging in comparative constitutional projects.