Research Unit for Legal and Constitutional Interpretation and Theory (RULCI)

RULCI focuses on South African public life and the role that legal theory, interpretation, culture and sensibility can play to enhance and re-imagine it.

The National Research Foundation (NRF): Division for Social Sciences and Humanities (DSS&H), the Division: Research Development of the US, and the Research Development Office at the UWC, funded the Unit. Previous RULCI Directors were the late Prof Lourens du Plessis, then of the Department of Public Law, US and Prof Jacques de Ville, then of the Department of Public Law, UWC. RULCI was active as a research entity from 1998-2004.

The main aim of the unit during this time was ‘to make sense of the construction and application of South Africa’s supreme Constitution as well as all existing law affected by it.’

The main activities of RULCI during these years included the following: research publications in accredited journals, books and scholarly monographs; research seminars on a wide range of topics related to interpretation and theory; an annual Colloquium; and research capacity building, including the offering of research workshops to postgraduate and undergraduate students.

The RULCI research hub or community then consisted of established researchers, young researchers, research fellows, postgraduate students and undergraduate students.

The previous incarnation of RULCI contributed immensely to building a new generation of young researchers but also fulfilled a very valuable role for established researchers during its years of operation. The annual colloquia provided a space for deep and critical reflection and deliberation on urgent matters. The research seminars ensured continued discussion and support for established and young researchers.

Re-establishing RULCI

More or less three decades after the adoption of constitutionalism in South Africa, the time WAS right for RULCI to pick up and to continue its work. The main aims and objectives remain the same with the possibility to expand and deepen the initial foci. Several events and developments over the past years underscore the need for universities to step in and take on the research, reflection and re-imagination that came to be associated with RULCI with renewed vigour. Notably the unit was re-established with an amended name: Research Unit for Legal and Constitutional Interpretation and Theory.

The vision of RULCI is to stimulate research and develop research capacity in legal and constitutional interpretation and theory at the partner universities and beyond, through activities that include, but is not limited to, reading groups, film clubs, public lectures, seminars, colloquiums, postgraduate supervision, interdisciplinary research and national and international collaboration.

The activities and objectives of the Unit are:

  • To produce high level research outputs in the field of legal and constitutional interpretation and theory at the partner universities.
  • To present regular public lectures, seminars, and an annual colloquium.
  • To conduct postgraduate teaching and supervision at the partner universities.
  • To build research capacity in legal and constitutional interpretation and theory, with a particular focus on candidates from historically disadvantaged groups.
  • To foster national and international collaboration and recognition for the Unit.
  • To work in an interdisciplinary manner, involving researchers, intellectuals and professionals from a variety of disciplines, theoretical orientations and parts of the world.
  • To become a research hub that undertakes a variety of research activities and facilitates dialogues that contribute to a vibrant public sphere.
  • To establish sources of renewable funding.

RULCI is currently guided by Prof Henk Botha (University of Stellenbosch); Prof Wessel le Roux (University of the Western Cape) and Prof Karin van Marle (University of the Western Cape, Director)

Since the re-establishment the unit hosted a number of events: The unit was informally launched during a seminar that reflected on the history of the unit and her future. The unit also paid tribute to the late legal philosopher and feminist theorist Drucilla Cornell. The annual RULCI colloquium was revived with a discussions on and reflections on the theme of legal culture. The first seminar of 2024 took up the theme of democracy in view of the upcoming elections.

The RULCI colloquium will take place on 18-19 July with the theme, Law, literature, interpretation. A number of other seminars are planned for the year.