Presidential Scholar Award Recipient Mirko Dukovic on the Capacities of Interdisciplinary Research

Mirko Dukovic, from Montenegro, earned his LLM in International Economic and Business Law from Kyushu University and his MA in European Integration Law from the University of Belgrade. His focus is on civil and political rights in established and emerging democracies, constitutional law, as well as biomedical law and ethics in biomedicine. He is a doctoral candidate at the Comparative Constitutional Law program at CEU Legal Studies.

Dukovic is currently a Teaching Assistant at the CEU Legal Studies Department and a national consultant for Council of Europe in Montenegro. He is committed to the re-invention of courses and re-imagining of teaching methods to best educate new generations of students with different perspectives and learning goals.

We spoke to him on the occasion of his 2020 Presidential Scholar Award. This is an edited interview conducted on October 19, 2020.

What does this honor mean for you?

For me personally, and everyone in the PhD group at this point in our career, an award like this means championing our research, so it was a big honor. My colleagues and I are in this because of love for research, reading and scholarship. Awards like this motivate us to keep working, to follow the current shift in scholarship and adapt to what's happening around us. Also they encourage us to recognize our skills as educators and publish more.

I think for me getting this award means having a certain responsibility and privilege at the same time. Responsibility to uphold my current pathway and privilege of being acknowledged, especially as this is the first time the award is being given. So essentially it comes as a responsibility to carry on the work for the values of open society, equality and justice because there is really no rule of law without them.

What was your route to CEU?

I had been offered a number of opportunities to carry on my research at several other institutions - in Singapore and Japan. Helping with my ultimate decision to go with CEU, I was guided by the question: What do I want to do with my career? Because my subject can be seen from a human rights perspective, bioethics perspective or business law perspective, I asked myself: What is the direction I want going forward? Who do I want to work with the most?

It was important for me to be in an educational program that would push me to produce work on almost a weekly basis, explore my boundaries, and understand legal issues from different perspectives. CEU has both a good ranking and an inclusive environment. Combining this with the fact that Professor Judit Sandor wanted to be my supervisor, and the many capacities and opportunities that CEU offers, it was a win-win situation. Plus I really love Budapest, and the luxury of CEU's great library.

What advice do you have for others applying for this scholarship?

I think people should ask themselves: How have you contributed to the community and education? To be honest, just ask: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? And then just tell your story. For me the decision to apply was a mix of different external factors and people around me recommended that I apply, which nudged me into submitting my CV.

What was the response by those around you when you shared the news of your award?

One thing I really cherished about this award and this moment is that when I shared it publicly, my former students wrote me and commented on the post saying they are so happy and proud, and that they tell people that I was their teacher and someone they look up to. I think that's really special, being looked up to in this way.

What else would you like to express?

I believe we live in an unprecedented time with various hybrid regimes, digital authoritarianism, fake news, as well as controversial bioethical and biopolitical decisions being taken by states fighting COVID. These days we see worldwide poverty spiraling again even as the extremely rich became even richer during the quarantine. So I think it's the job of academics and PhD researchers to focus on such issues and provide for constructive critical thinking. To also notice the shifts happening everywhere, talk about them openly and publish our work about them. We can learn a lot from the past, but we also need to be focused on what's happening now and how we can apply the lessons from the past so we don't slip into some dystopian future that no one really wants.

What drives you in your work?

My research topic is current and relevant. I'm writing about 3-D printing of human tissues and the regulation around it. I find imagining bio-constitutional and regulatory frameworks around these technologies really thrilling. Part of my research is focused on social justice and the position of vulnerable groups in the world of emerging biomedical advancements. Therefore, I'd like to observe the borderline, the place where societies slip away from the rule of law.

There are some countries where this happens from time to time, for example in China, where scientists have edited genomes of unborn twins. In such circumstances, I believe that multidisciplinary research and work with peers and professors from different legal and other research backgrounds can contribute to a truly diverse academy and inclusive society. We need more interdisciplinary and intersectional research across our fields. We have a great responsibility for the generations to come, to help them live in a better world where human rights, justice and equality still mean something.

The Presidential Scholars Fund was established by CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff and his wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar. It supports four Presidential Graduate Research Awards for exceptional Master's and Doctoral students whose research shows promise for the next generation. The Fund also awards two scholarships per year to incoming bachelor's students demonstrating exceptional academic credentials and leadership promise. Bringing the graduate and undergraduate scholars together, the Rector hosts an annual dinner for the Scholars and meets with them regularly throughout the year.