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The Seminario en Latinoamérica de Teoría Constitucional y Política—the Seminar in Latin America on Constitutional and Political Theory, or SELA, as it has come to be known by its Spanish acronym—is an annual academic gathering which brings together scholars from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the United States. Each year participants discuss a selection of papers written for the seminar that reflect a set of themes determined by the faculty directors and representatives from partnering universities. The papers are distributed and read before the meeting so that the seminar is reserved for in-depth discussion and debate of the papers which, after which authors are given the chance to make modifications, are published in a Spanish-language book.
SELA is concerned with both substance and process. Its founders agreed that it should seek to deepen understanding of complex theoretical issues, model a more discussion-oriented form of intellectual discourse than is the norm in Latin America, and create a venue for the formation of a professional community.
SELA has become an intellectual center of gravity in Latin America. What was once a gathering of individuals with diverse interests and agendas has, in the words of one participant, “taken on the flavor of a family reunion.” Other participants tend to echo one another as they reach for words to describe what the seminar has come to mean to them. They speak of developing a common language over time, one that allows for the communal exploration of new ideas across geographic, disciplinary, and ideological boundaries.