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Fellow Seminar

05 March 2020

Assoc. Prof. Martin Belov will present the work in progress on his project "Constitutional Semiotics. Theory of Imaginative, Visual and Emotional Discourses in Constitutional Law" on 5 March 2020 (Thursday) at 16:30h at CAS conference hall.

Constitutional Semiotics. Theory of Imaginative, Visual and Emotional Discourses in Constitutional Law

Project phase I

In this project I am going to propose a new approach to constitutionalism and constitutional law. This is the constitutional semiotics approach. The aim of constitutional semiotics, as defined by me, will be to provide a tool for analysis of the constitution and constitutional law as a system of signs and symbols. In that regard, I will define the concept of constitutional semiotics comparing it with general semiotics and legal semiotics. I will demonstrate how constitutional semiotics relates to other theories for constitutional analysis outlining its advantages and particular contributions for gaining additional knowledge of constitutional phenomena (especially on the macro level).

The core assumption of the project is that the predominant constitutional theory is overemphasizing rational constitutionalism while, in fact, constitutional codes, images, symbols and emotions play pivotal role for the functioning and understanding of constitution, constitutional law and constitutionalism. Constitutional law will be deconstructed from the viewpoint of emotional, imaginative and visual discourses and then reconstructed using semiotic instruments as a ‘game of codes'. Hence, I am going to explore the ‘underestimated' and ‘hidden' discourses in constitutionalism. These are the emotional, visual and imaginative constitutional discourses. Thus, constitutional semiotics will be exposed as a bridge between rational and emotional constitutionalism.

Special attention will be devoted to a theory I am proposing. This is the theory of constitutional geometry. Constitutional geometry is both semiotic and epistemological scientific paradigm. It aims at both explaining and ordering the constitutional law. It will be demonstrated that constitutional geometry may serve well as a meta-theory of constitutional methodology borrowing from both constitutional semiotics and constitutional epistemology. I aim to define the concept of constitutional geometry and to create a typology of constitutional geometric forms capable of explaining the main shapes and forms used for organizing and explaining the constitutional order.

Project phase II

Imagining the Constitutional Past: the Case of Revolutionary Constitutional Memories
(Abstract for the fellow seminar to be held on 5th March 2020 at CAS)

Constitutionalism is supposed to be an extremely rational phenomenon. Rationalism is one of the pillars of constitutional modernity and constitutionalism. Constitutions have been born in the age of enlightenment. They are part of the broader movement for rational depiction, systematization and reform of the socio-political world. Constitutions are embedded in the general codification movement preconditioned upon excessive rationalism.
Constitutional law is supposed to be rational, well-ordered and systematic. It must be objective and universal. From the predominant positivist viewpoint the main quality of constitutions and the rest of the sources of constitutional law is their validity, not their legitimacy or social acceptance and definitely not their persuasive power and their capability of engaging the collective imagination of the socio-political community. The way the people understand and practice constitutional law, the modes and shapes of their constitutional imagination are metalegal issue from positivist viewpoint.
This presentation will challenge the predominantly rationalist viewpoint. It will show that in parallel and in addition to the predominant rational constitutionalism there are also ‘shadow constitutionalisms'. These are the emotional, the visual, but especially the imaginary constitutionalism.
The presentation will start with defining the concept of imaginary constitutionalism. It will address the need to conceptualize theoretically the concepts of imaginary constitutionalism and constitutional imagination. It will outline the core of these concepts, their scope, meaning and relationship with other theoretical constructs.

Hence, the presentation will discuss: what is constitutional imagination; who can create imaginary constitutionalism via constitutional imagination; what is the legal framework and scope of constitutional imagination; has constitutional imagination a legal validity and in case of positive answer - under which circumstances; is it possible to have constitutional imagination beyond legal validity - as a socio-legal and not as strictly legal phenomenon and, if yes, how can we differentiate valid constitutional imagination from non-valid but empirically important constitutional imagination. The presentation will also outline the relationship between constitutional imagination and imaginative constitutionalism as well as how does imaginative constitutionalism relates to other variants and forms of constitutionalism.

The second part of the presentation will be devoted to outlining of my theory of constitutional semiotic conceptualization of time. More precisely, I will focus on the constitutional institutionalization of the past. I will differentiate constitutional memories as elements of imaginary constitutionalism from the reactivity and reflexivity of the constitutions as phenomena bound to the logic of rational constitutionalism. Constitutional law will be exposed as a historically reflexive phenomenon from the viewpoint of constitutional epistemology and constitutional semiotics. The constitutional shapes of the past will be outlined from a semiotic viewpoint. Special attention will be devoted to constitutional memories. They will be defined and classified.

The third part of the presentation will engage with a special type of constitutional memories. These are the revolutionary constitutional memories as product and part of revolutionary constitutionalism. Thus, the general constitutional theory of the past, the semiotic approach to the past and the theoretical and institutional projections of the past in the imaginary constitutionalism will be demonstrated against the background of a phenomenon - revolutionary constitutional memories - which is of particular interest and importance.

The main issues which will be discussed in the third part of the presentation are the following: which are the typical constitutions that contain revolutionary constitutional memories; constitutional memories as semiotic process - constitutional memories as constitutional encoding of imaginary constitutionalism (normative ideologies, founding myths, collective beliefs, hopes and fears from the past); typology of constitutional memory with regard to the distinction between rational and imaginary constitutionalism; constitutional semiotic conceptualization of history; institutional, epistemic and semiotic structure of the constitutional past.

Martin Belov is Associate Professor in Constitutional and Comparative Constitutional Law at Sofia University. He has been a guest lecturer and visiting professor at the University of Paris II Pantheon-Assas, France (2019), University Roma Tre, Italy (2019), European Academy of Legal Theory and the ‘Goethe' University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2019), etc. Dr. Belov has been project researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2010-2012) and visiting researcher at the Institute for Federalism, Fribourg, Switzerland (2014). He is president of the Sofia Legal Science Network; member of the European Group of Public Law, International Association of Legislation, the Advisory Board of the Central and Eastern European Forum of Young Legal, Political and Social Theorists, Bulgarian Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Bulgarian Scientists Union, section "Legal Sciences" and other scientific and academic organizations.


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