The Baldy Center Podcast

Melilla, 2012 Mural by Blu; screen shot courtesy of the artist's website.

Melilla, 2012,  mural (detail) by Blu; screen capture courtesy of the artist's website.

Episode 42: Paul Linden-Retek discusses postnational constitutionalism

Published May 24, 2024

In Episode 42 of The Baldy Center Podcast, Paul Linden-Retek discusses his book, Postnational Constitutionalism: Europe and the Time of Law (OUP: 2023). He shares insight on why he wrote the book, and addresses questions concerning global justice, the open-ended nature of identity, and the humanistic qualities of law, leading to a reconsideration of the grounds of an international legal order. Linden-Retek frames refugee law and policy within the EU as humanitarian issues at the center of his research.

Keywords: Postnational Constitutionalism; European Union; European Law; Refugee Law; Asylum; Exclusionary Politics; Reification.

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The book is framed as a response to the question, ‘What does Europe owe to asylum seekers and refugees?’ To me, that has always been the purest, simplest gauge, and a kind of statement, of Europe’s postnational commitment. [...] 

When I first started writing the project, the image that constantly came to mind was a large mural by the Italian artist, Blu, painted on a forgotten building in the Spanish exclave of Melilla. [...] Melilla is geographically African, but politically Spanish, politically European. And it's the entry point for [many] Sub-Saharan migrants and refugees trying to make their way to seek safety and a better life in Europe. It's also been the site of extreme violence. Blu's mural reimagines the EU flag. But instead of 12 golden stars on a field of blue, his mural has 12 golden barbs of barbed wire.

On the outside of that circle of golden barbs are hundreds of people awaiting entry. [...] What's remarkable about Blu’s mural is that, inside of the circle, there's a void. There's nothing. And I always thought that was an incredibly evocative statement about the state of European politics and law. And so I drew on that image to think about the nature of the European project at this particular point in time."

                 —Paul Linden-Retek 
                    (The Baldy Center Podcast, Spring 2024)

Paul Linden-Retek, Associate Professor of Law, Co-Director of the Buffalo Human Rights Center

Research Focus: comparative constitutional law, constitutional theory, international human rights, Refugee and asylum law

Paul Linden-Retek, Associate Professor of Law; Co-director of the Buffalo Human Rights Center.

Paul Linden-Retek

Paul Linden-Retek writes and teaches in the areas of constitutional law, international human rights, and critical legal theory, with an emphasis on comparative constitutional law, constitutional theory, European Union law, and refugee and asylum law. His work in these fields has been published in the International Journal of Constitutional LawJurisprudenceGlobal Constitutionalism; the Columbia Journal of European Law; the German Law JournalLaw, Culture, and the Humanities; and the Yale Journal of International Law; and his public writing has appeared in the Boston Review. He is the author of Postnational Constitutionalism: Europe and the Time of Law (Oxford University Press 2023), which reimagines the form and emancipatory aspirations of constitutional law in the project of European integration. His current research examines the externalization of border control policy by the Global North and its implications not only for the protection of individual human rights but also for the legitimacy of state power and international legal order. Continue reading faculty profile.

The book emerges from a period of coming to terms with the many crises that have gripped the European Union. [The] rule of law crisis, illiberalism and the democratic backsliding that we [have seen] in Poland and Hungary; the crisis in the European Union's response to the claims of refugees, namely in 2015, but that crisis has been ongoing. And the Eurozone crisis, which is a concern [of] how to [...] think about the justice of economic relationships within the European [Economic and] Monetary Union, and the structure of the Eurozone, and of course the fraught bailouts of Greece and the imposed austerity as a condition of those bailouts."

                 —Paul Linden-Retek
                     (The Baldy Center Podcast, Spring 2024)

Postnational Constitutionalism:
Europe and the Time of Law 
(OUP: 2023)

Abstract: At a time when the project of integrating Europe’s peoples through the rule of law is faltering, this book develops a critical theory of postnational constitutionalism. Today, widely held conceptions of European law continue to mislead citizens about the nature of political identity, sovereignty, and agency. They lose sight of a critical idea on which postnationalism depends: that constitutional self-authorship is a narrative affair and the polity is a subject whose identity, history, and legacy are still in formation. Absent this vision, European law reproduces crises of legitimacy: the depoliticization of public life; emergency rule by executive decree; a collapse of solidarity; and the rise of nativist movements.

The book diagnoses this impasse as the product of a problem familiar to modernity: reification—a process in which social and historical relationships are misattributed as timeless relations among things. Reification’s shrinking of social dilemmas, moral principles, and political action to narrow perceptions of the present explains law’s role in perpetuating crisis. But this diagnosis also points to a remedy. It suggests that to sustain the emancipatory potential of European constitutionalism we must recover the time of law. The book offers a more temporally attuned constitutional theory with the principles of anti-reification, narrative interpretation, and non-sovereign agency at its centre. These principles reimagine essential domains of constitutional order: social integration, constitutional adjudication, and constituent power. Spanning various bodies of European jurisprudence, the book devotes particular attention to migration and asylum, struggles where questions of solidarity, law, and belonging are most acute and generative.

Melilla 2012, mural by Blu; screen shot courtesy of the artist's website.

Logan, Podcast Host/Producer 2023-24



Logan, The Baldy Center’s 2023-2024 podcast host/producer, is a graduate student in UB's School of Architecture and Planning, Program on International Development and Global Health. Logan is interested in NGOs and nonprofit global health initiatives within the global south. Logan completed undergraduate studies in Public Health, with a minor in Spanish, and has recently been accepted into a certificate program at NYU x Rolling Stone for Modern Journalism. As graduate research assistant, Logan has worked for the Women’s Health Initiative, and, the Community for Global Health Equity. Recipient of the 2022 Art Goshin Global Health Fieldwork Award for research on Decentralization of Health Services in Ghana, Logan currently serves as a research assistant with Dr. Tia Palermo's 2PE lab. 

Executive Producers

Samantha Barbas
Professor, UB School of Law;
Director, The Baldy Center

Amanda M. Benzin 
Associate Director
The Baldy Center