Melissa Crouch.

Melissa Crouch

Melissa Crouch, PhD, is a senior research fellow at The Baldy Center. While in residence here, Dr. Crouch will be working on a manuscript about constitutional endurance and how past constitutions matter to contemporary reform debates in Myanmar. Based on her field research, the manuscript offers a constitutive approach to the relationship between constitutions and societies in the postcolony, with a focus on how periods of military rule and unconstitutional rule shape constitutional futures.

As a professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, Dr. Crouch's research contributes to the interdisciplinary fields of law and society; comparative constitutional law, with a focus on Asia. In 2022, she won the Podgorecki Prize for outstanding scholarship of an early career socio-legal scholar, awarded by the Research Committee on the Sociology of Law, the International Sociological Association. Dr. Crouch is the president of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (2023-2024), the peak academic body for the study of Asia in Australia.


The Military Turn in Comparative Constitutional Law: Constitutions and the Military in Authoritarian Regimes


Abstract: In this article I argue that studies of constitutions in authoritarian regimes reveal a new finding hiding in plain sight: that the military is often a pivotal constitutional actor. The question of how the military uses law and constitutions to enable and facilitate its influence in constitution-making and constitutional practise is under-researched. The military demands scholarly attention because of the unprecedented opportunities for the military as a constitutional actor due to the rise of populism and the decline of democracy; an increase in civil conflict; intensified efforts at counter-terrorism and anti-trafficking; and the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I review the literature across law and the social sciences on the military and the constitution in authoritarian regimes. In doing so, I demonstrate that the military is an important, yet overlooked, constitutional actor; that civilian control of the military is never absolute but a matter of degree and changes over time; and that histories of military rule and military use of law and constitutions matter. I call for a turn to the study of the military as a constitutional actor in comparative constitutional law.