Public event

Book presentation - The Social Constitution: Embedding Social Rights Through Legal Mobilization (2023)

A panel discussion with author Whitney K. Taylor (San Francisco State University) and discussant Aileen Kavanagh (Trinity College Dublin), chaired by Başak Çalı (Hertie School). The event is hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights as part of the Spotlight on Scholarship event series.

About the book: The Social Constitution examines the conditions under which new constitutional rights become meaningful, moving from parchment promises to constraining institutions. This book introduces the concept of “embedding” constitutional law, which clarifies how particular visions of law come to take root both socially and legally. One way that constitutional embedding occurs is through legal mobilization, as citizens understand the law in some way or another and make legal claims—or choose not to—on the basis of that understanding, and as judges decide whether and how to respond to legal claims. These interactions ultimately construct the content and strength of the constitutional order. When constitutions are robustly embedded, they can weather significant challenges, including 1) limits of legal legibility, or what and whose problems are intelligible to the law, 2) overt efforts to unravel rights protections by political actors who view constitutionalism as a threat to their power, and 3) the difficulty of keeping up with the daily work that underpins any legal order. The book focuses on the Colombian constitution of 1991, and it draws on over one year of fieldwork across Colombia and multiple sources of data, including semi-structured interviews, original surveys, legal documents, and participation observation.

The Social Constitution: Embedding Social Rights Through Legal Mobilization was published 2023 in the Cambridge Studies on Law and Society series with Cambridge University Press.

This event is part of the Spotlight on Scholarship event series hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

Prior registration is required. Registered attendees will receive the login details as well as the introductory chapter to the book via e-mail prior to the event.



  • Whitney K. Taylor is Assistant Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. She has PhD in Government from Cornell University. Her research focuses on comparative constitutionalism, law and social movements, and legal mobilization.

  • Aileen Kavanagh is Professor of Constitutional Governance at Trinity College Dublin. She holds the Chair of Constitutional Governance at Trinity College Dublin, where she is Director of TriCON - the Trinity Centre for Constitutional Governance. She is author of Constitutional Review under the UK Human Rights Act 1998 (CUP, 2009). Her new book - The Collaborative Constitution - is due out with Cambridge University Press in November 2023.


  • Başak Çalıis Professor of International Law at the Hertie School and Director of the School's Centre for Fundamental Rights. She is an expert in international law and institutions, international human rights law and policy.