Nation in the Legal Imagination

The course examines legal-constitutional discourse on nationalism (including the constitutional text, constituent assembly debates and court judgments) and uses audio-visual materials to consider the contours of the relationship between law and nation.

Although prophecies of the inevitable demise of the nation-state were heard as late as the beginning of this century, recent years have witnessed a dramatic resurgence of nationalism in several parts of the world. In many cases, this resurgence has translated as a demand for rethinking questions that determined the founding, perhaps the very foundations, of the particular nation-state. In India, there is a tendency to reduce the present situation to a clash between jingoistic nationalism on one side and constitutional commitments on the other, which may persuade one to believe that our constitution is in crisis today. But this obscures counterintuitive uses of the constitution, as the use of Article 48 of the Indian Constitution in support of cow-senas suggests.

Legal histories point out that modern constitutions emerged as a result of the rise of nation- states in Europe (Loughlin). The time and energy devoted to drafting a constitution for independent India also demonstrates its importance to the national project. What then is the relationship between the law, particularly the constitution, and the nation? Legal scholarship has not sufficiently addressed the connection between the two. Moreover, nationalism itself continues to be studied predominantly through intellectual history. This course aims to examine the law, particularly the Indian constitution, as the site of imagining national communities (Anderson), a source from which to glimpse India (that is Bharat)’.