We the People: National Identity and Constitutions

This paper examines the relationship between nationalism and constitutions, the role of a constitution in the imagination of the ‘people’ and their national identity, especially in post-colonial contexts.

It argues that the ‘people’ viewed as citizens are a distinct conceptual category embodied and in many ways created by the constitution, a product of ideological nationalist contestations at the constitutive moment, and the ‘people’ at various moments in their political histories have a collective national identity drawn from and in part defined by the constitution.

It argues that looking to the founding narrative and constitutions for a sense of national identity can provide for a thicker account of constitutional patriotism that is compatible with democratic constitutionalism. It allows for an inclusive national belonging that can serve as a counter to ethno-nationalist forces and promote democratic resilience, especially in countries with higher levels of constitutional faith.