The African Advantage in Comparative Constitutional Studies

Comparative constitutional studies is one of the fascinating fields of inquiry that cuts across national borders, cultures, and legal systems. Yet, it is punctuated by considerations of jurisprudence and language. While its archive mainly consists of the experiences of the usual suspects, which practice liberal constitutionalism, its lingua franca is English. Even though there is a call to go beyond the usual suspects to enrich the archive of the field, language still structures the comparative constitutional inquiry. Because of this, many jurisdictions face the situation of “translate or perish” regardless of the quality of their jurisprudence. In this regard, Africa has a linguistic advantage in the field. This is partly why the judiciary in Kenya, and its counterparts in South Africa before it, has attracted global attention instantly. In this paper, I will examine the potential and limits of language in comparative constitutional studies in the African context.