Research

I am a political scientist specializing in Public Law and American Politics. My current book project, The Politics of Sovereignty: Federalism in American Political Development, addresses an under-examined question in American constitutionalism, one central to the aspirations to popular sovereignty and constitutional governance: How has the federal system been shaped by political and constitutional development? Whereas extant accounts focus primarily on how federalism shapes politics, I reverse the question and, in so doing, argue that the flexibility of the federal system—the absence from the constitutional text of a comprehensive state-federal relationship—anticipates political and constitutional development. These developmental trajectories are, in turn, inflected by institutionally-induced perspectives that actors have on questions of constitutional meaning and government power. Through a combination of theoretical inquiry and developmental analysis, I both clarify the constitutional logic of federalism and document its consequences for jurisprudential and political development. The Politics of Sovereignty demonstrates how the course of American constitutional development, along with the understandings of nationalism and states’ rights it entails, is the result of an interaction between an enduring constitutional logic and contingent political interests.

In addition to the book manuscript, I am working on a multipart project on the role of human dignity in American constitutional jurisprudence. The first piece, recently published in the International Journal of Constitutional Law, documents the emergence of “equal dignity” in the Supreme Court’s recent individual rights decisions and assesses its relationship to preexisting doctrine. A second piece that examines the ways in which judicial articulations of human dignity have been influenced by the structure of the American political system is being prepared for a forthcoming volume that explores human dignity from a multidisciplinary perspective. The next phase of this project is a comparative analysis that situates the American jurisprudence of “equal dignity” in the context of South African, German, and Israeli constitutional law. Taken together, these projects illustrate how and why human dignity has risen to increasing prominence in American law and legal discourse.