Mathew John: Social Intuitions in the Shadow of Liberal Constitutionalism: Modernity, Politics and State Formation in Contemporary India


For over a hundred years now, constitutionalism in India has been fashioned as a revolutionary project that would sweep away the parochial loyalties of traditional India to usher in a modern nation state. An important moment in this journey was the adoption of the Constitution of independent India in 1950 which gave sovereign power vast authority over traditional centers of power. Constitutional historians speak of the constituent assembly that framed the Constitution as being animated by concerns for national unity, social uplift of a poverty-stricken nation and, an intense concern for external recognition in the comity of nations. In turn this led to a liberal Constitution that was nonetheless deeply invested matters as stunning diverse as social equality, health, education, communal amity, animal welfare and economic prosperity. All this it was believed would make for a new society that would be free from British imperial subjection and the moral decay of ossified social structures. However, how would the new republic legitimately exercise its sovereign power over contending centres of social power? What was the character of the people in whose name and upon whom the social revolution was to be carried out?

Through a discussion of identities like religion, caste, gender and citizenship, the building blocks of democratic nationhood in India, this talk explores the difficulties of forging a people and indeed its unravelling in Indian constitutional practice. More importantly it also illustrates the inability of these identities as they have been incorporated into constitutional practice to resonate with autochthonous social intuitions. Finally, through the thought of M K Gandhi it attempts to think of what it might mean to think of a constitutional identity that resonates with social intuitions about politics and community.

Curriculum Vitae

Ph.D. Mathew John absolvierte 1998 einen Bachelorstudiengang des Rechts an der National School of Law der India University. Anschließend wechselte er an die University of Warwick und schloss dort 2003 den Masterstudiengang im Recht (LL.M.) ab. 2012 wurde Mathew John an der London School of Economics and Political Science promoviert. Es folgte eine Anstellung als Associate Professor an der Jindal Global Law School in Sonipat, Indien.

Seit Januar 2017 ist Ph.D. Mathew John Fellow am Käte Hamburger Kolleg „Recht als Kultur“ in Bonn.