We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Institute of Advanced Study

Who are “We the People”? Community beyond the state


“The people” are sovereign; “the people’s will” must prevail; but who are “the people”? Who gets to belong to this group, and who decides? How do individuals coalesce into a collective “people”, and what other communities are formed in the same way?

This project, drawing on Durham’s strengths in Classics, Law, Human Geography, Politics, and History, investigates how individuals come together to form communities which are legal or social entities in themselves.

One strand, led primarily by Classics and CNCS (who will be holding a parallel lecture series on popular sovereignty) will consider definitions of “the people” from antiquity to today, from the populus Romanus to ‘real Americans’. The second, led primarily by colleagues in Law and SGIA, will explore contemporary communities larger or smaller than the state, from the Cham people in Southeast Asia to Scottish nationalists, and from identity groups looking to find their place within a state to groups seeking recognition as part of the international community.

The project seeks to draw prestigious visiting fellows to the project, and will feed into multiple departments’ strategic plans for internationalisation. The primary outputs will be a seven-figure grant application led by Dr Amy Russell, but an equally important goal will be developing new research areas and collaborations, and methodologies.

Term: Epiphany 2019

Principal Investigator: Dr Amy Russell, Department of Classics and Ancient History,

Theme(s): Community State

IAS Fellows