SOAS University of London

School of Law

Comparative Constitutional Law

Module Code:
15PLAH046
Credits:
15
Taught in:
Term 2

This module “de-colonizes” comparative constitutional law: It introduces students to critical approaches to comparative law; it de-centres the “role model” constitutions; it critiques mainstream liberal theories that idealise these constitutions; and it sheds light on often marginalised constitutional histories and systems. Standard modules on the subject tend to focus on North American and European constitutional experiences. In contrast, this module focuses on Asian, African, and Latin American experiences. Moreover, the module questions formalist methods and theories that privilege text over practice, separate between law and politics, ignore law’s contradictions, reduce Global South constitutions to mere political instruments, idealise Global North constitutions as normative constraints on politics, and thus generally discount experiences outside the established Western liberal canon.     

The module combines thematic discussions and case studies of a variety of constitutional systems, some of which are delivered by guest lecturers who are experts in the respective constitutional system. The thematic sessions may include discussions of constitutions and constitutionalism; the meaning of critical comparative methodology; colonialism and constitutionalism; judicial power; ideology and constitutionalism; religion and constitutionalism; revolution and constitutionalism. The case studies may include mapping exercises (Islamic constitutionalism, Arab constitutionalism, and constitutionalism in Latin America or Africa), and country-specific cases such as India, Thailand, or Soviet and post-Soviet constitutions (these may change depending on availability).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aims of this module are:

  • to introduce students to methods and theories of comparative public law;
  • to introduce students to critiques of dominant theories and methods;
  • to provide knowledge of the variety of constitutional systems across countries;
  • to inculcate analytical and research skills;
  • to encourage reflection on the potentialities and limits of constitutional law in regulating the exercise of public power in contemporary society.

Workload

  • Weekly 2 hour lecture

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 100% (one 4000 word essay).

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules