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"Societās" evokes the process of uniting for a common purpose and the people engaging in that process, the lived experience of associational involvement    

Theme 1: Comparative Law of Freedom of Association

Jurisdictions currently being explored by a team of expert researchers include Australia, Canada, China, Ethiopia, Finland, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Spain, the United States, and international human rights systems such as the Council of Europe, the Inter-American System of Human Rights and the United Nations.  

Theme 2: Selfhood and Sociality within Associations

This project uses insights from feminism and phenomenology, particularly theories of selfhood and empathy to illuminate the relational dimensions of associational freedom.  

Theme 3: The Internal Workings of Associations

This project uses theories of social ontology and shared agency to adapt a language for understanding and articulating the inner workings of associations in a legal context. 

Which AssociationsAssociations come in all shapes and sizes: trade unions, political parties, charities, sporting organisations, cultural associations, residents' associations, students' associations, and so on.

This project explores the value of associations of all kinds. 


Maria Cahill

Principal Investigator and Project Lead

Maria Cahill is a Professor of Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence at University College Cork, with expertise in constitutional theory, comparative law, and the principle of subsidiarity. She completed her undergraduate law degree at Trinity College in Dublin, and then graduated with an LLM and a PhD in constitutional theory from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.


The spark for this project was kindled while Maria was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2019. In 2022, Maria won a prestigious Irish Research Council Laureate Award, with funding to support the project from 2022 until 2026.

The motivation for this project is Maria's sense that associations may have an ever more vital role to play in promoting sustainable political communities, fostering genuine pluralism and guarding against social alienation and, as a consequence, that the right to freedom of association is worthy of careful study and consideration so that we can more fully understand its purpose and potential.

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Giulia Lasagni

Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

Giulia Lasagni is a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Law at University College Cork. She joined the Societās project on freedom of association as a philosopher with expertise in social ontology, in particular the metaphysics of social groups, theories of collective intentionality and debates on group agency.

Giulia holds a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Parma (Italy), where she also obtained her Ph.D.. During her doctoral studies, Giulia was a visiting researcher at Columbia University (NYC) and the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest (Romania). As a Postdoctoral Fellow, she worked at the University of Parma and the Europa-Universität Flensburg (Germany), first on a DAAD-funded project and then as a Research Assistant with teaching responsibilities.

With her background and interest in social groups, Giulia’s role in the project is to reflect on and articulate how associations actually work in practice and how that can be reflected in law, advancing Theme 3.

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Cinzia Ruggeri

Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

Cinzia Ruggeri is a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Law, University College Cork, with expertise in classical phenomenology (especially Max Scheler), and social philosophy. Her main areas of research are affective intentionality, phenomenology of emotions, and phenomenology of intersubjectivity.


She was previously appointed as part-time lecturer in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music at Dublin City University, and was a postdoctoral affiliate in the School of Philosophy at University College Dublin, where she worked as a teaching assistant and as an occasional lecturer. She graduated with an MA in Philosophy from the University of Milan, and with a PhD in Philosophy as an Irish Research Council postgraduate fellow from University College Dublin.

Cinzia’s role in the project on freedom of association is to explore the extent to which freedom of association fosters selfhood and empathetic understanding, advancing Theme 2.

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