Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Announcing, from across the blogosphere, 5 new "Legal Wonders' nominees!

Heartfelt thanks to our colleague Anil Kalhan for making Dorf on Law the 1st cross-blog participant in our ongoing contest to Name the World's 7 Legal Wonders. After listing the nominees to date -- (1) the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, (2) the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, (3) the Law Merchant, and (4) the Edicts of Aśoka -- he remarks:

Just as interesting as any particular candidate for "Legal Wonder" may be what the nominations say about the cultures from which these Legal Wonders have emerged and our own. Mary Rebecca Bynum has written that when she teaches her undergraduate course on "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World," her purpose is not simply to teach students about the Seven Wonders themselves, but to explore "how members of one culture view other cultures, and what use they make of other cultures in their own world." This contest, too, may be as much a window into our own values, ideals, and culture as it is into the cultures that produced the particular "Legal Wonders" being nominated.
Then comes Anil's nomination:
So who or what do we nominate here at Dorf on Law? There are of course many worthy candidates, but I nominate Dr. B.R. Ambedkar [left], a Dalit (or so-called "untouchable")leader who at times clashed with Gandhi and other Congress leaders during the Indian independence movement and later became one of the principal architects of the Indian constitution, which among many other notable things abolished "untouchability." Over fifty years after his death, Ambedkar remains a deeply influential figure in contemporary India, and to some people a controversial one. A crude indicator of progress under Ambedkar's Constitution may be seen in the sweeping recent victory in the state of Uttar Pradesh by the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, a party created principally to represent and advocate on behalf of Dalits. Not only did the BSP surprise observers by winning an absolute majority of seats in the state -- returning Mayawati, the first Dalit woman to lead any of India's states, to power as the state's Chief Minister -- but it apparently did so with significant support from a "rainbow coalition" that included significant numbers of upper caste Hindus. On the other hand, for a sense of how far India has yet to go to fully realize its formal abolition of untouchability, recall my post on the status of Dalits from several months ago.
What's more, commenters at Dorf on Law added even more nominees, both positive and negative.
From commenter Caleb: "I'd suggest the Magna Carta [right] and -- in a bout of sentimentality perhaps -- the Canadian Constitution. It did what new contemporary constitutions did, and tried to enshrine principles of equality and protection between different groups without forcing assimilation."
Meanwhile, commenter Juan named: 1st, as a positive influence, the 4 1949 Geneva Conventions on the laws of war, and 2d, as a "fiasco," memoranda written by members of the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Often called the "'torture
memos
,'" many are reprinted in The Torture Papers.
Whew -- 5 new nominees in 1 fell swoop. And more to come, we hope: tell us yours, with a brief description of your reasons, by posting a comment or by e-mailing us at intlawgrrls@gmail.com.

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