SELA Celebrates 20th Anniversary in Peru

Leading scholars and lawyers from North and South American recently gathered in Lima, Peru, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the meeting of the Seminario en Latinoamérica de Teoría Constitucional y Política – The Seminar in Latin America on Constitutional and Political Theory (SELA).

This year’s seminar featured panels examining the politics of economics, social rights, free speech, and the constitution. Professors Owen Fiss and Robert Burt ’64, two of SELA’s founders, presented their recent work with Professor Fiss discussing the Modern Democratic State and Equality and Community and Professor Burt discussing the Dignity of the Individual Spirit and the Constitution in Conflict.

SELA is an annual seminar that brings together scholars from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Perú, Puerto Rico, Spain and the United States to present papers on a specific theme and discuss them in a series of panel discussions. The papers are written in English and Spanish or Portuguese and published in a Spanish-language book following the discussions.

Inaugurated in August 1995, SELA was created to help deepen the understanding of complex theoretical issues, to model a more discussion-oriented form of intellectual discourse than is the norm in Latin America, and to create a venue for the formation of a professional community.

SELA also helps strengthen personal linkages between students and faculty members and develop a common legal language and a set of shared interests and values. Its impact continues to grow each year, with the roster of participants steadily expanding to include more than 100 representatives from countries throughout Latin America, the Caribbean basin, Europe, and the United States (including a substantial number of Law School faculty members).

During a celebratory dinner at this year’s event, Professor Fiss remarked about the strong SELA community and its ever-expanding impact.

“SELA is dedicated to the generation and acquisition of knowledge and in the pursuit of knowledge is distinguished by its critical or non-dogmatic perspective on the law, and by its willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries,” said Fiss. “As a community, it is distinguished by the transnational character of its members, its intergenerational character, and its never-ending quality… The inter-generational character of SELA’s membership endows the community with almost an endless life.”

Daniel Markovits ’00, the director of SELA, said this year was a great success and unique in that participants got to spend a day reviewing the work of Professors Fiss and Burt.

“We had a day's worth of papers devoted to the work of Bo Burt and Owen Fiss, and the celebrations mixed personal warmth with intellectual rigor,” Markovits said. “Participants from both the South and the North reflected on SELA's immense—and in some cases even transformative—importance for their work and for their institutions more broadly.”

To see the full 2014 SELA program, click here.