Skip to main content

The Identity of the Constitutional Subject and the Construction of Constitutional Identity: Lessons from Africa

Speaker Portrait Photo
Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

The Department of Legal Studies cordially invites you to the upcoming Brown Bag seminar with Dr. Berihun Gebeye (UCL Faculty of Laws) on Tuesday, February 14, 12 – 1 pm. Dr. Gebeye will present his paper “The Identity of the Constitutional Subject and the Construction of Constitutional Identity: Lessons from Africa”. You can find the abstract below.


The seminar will be held in hybrid format.

Zoom details:

Zoom Link

Meeting ID: 937 0642 2166

Passcode: 194272


Room: QS D-318


In this article, I introduce a degree of novelty into the scholarship on the nexus between constitutional identity and the constitutional subject. I do so by pluralizing both the territorial space constitutional identity exists and the constitutional subject it interacts. Drawing from the African Union continental constitutional framework, the Ethiopian national constitutional experience, and the Nigerian subnational constitutional practice, I show how the three-tiered political identity of the constitutional subject – Pan-African, national, and subnational- shapes the construction of constitutional identity at various levels differently. While the Pan-African identity of the constitutional subject assists in imagining a cosmopolitan constitutional identity at the continental level, the sub-national identity of this same constitutional subject supports the establishment of a unique constitutional identity at the national (Ethiopia) and subnational (Nigeria) levels. I demonstrate how the identity of the constitutional subject and its accompanying social and political movements offer a relevant material for the construction of constitutional identity, and how this, in turn, may shape, facilitate, or complicate the practice of constitutionalism in the African context.


About the speaker

Dr. Berihun Gebeye is Lecturer in Law at UCL’s Faculty of Law. His research interests focus on comparative constitutional law, human rights, and international law. He is particularly interested in the intersection of legal and political theory, constitutional law and theory, and the law and politics of international law. He uses interdisciplinary approaches and materials to study the design and practice of constitutionalism, human rights, and the rule of law with a regional focus on Africa, which he has published extensivelyHe is the author of  A Theory of African Constitutionalism (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Prior to joining UCL Laws, he was a Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, a Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Vienna, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow under the Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Comparative Constitutionalism held by Prof. Dr. Ran Hirschl at the University of Göttingen. He held visiting positions at the Columbia Law School, the Center for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. He earned an S.J.D./Ph.D. in Comparative Constitutional Law (summa cum laude) from the Central European University in 2019. He holds law and human rights degrees from Haramaya University (LLB), Addis Ababa University (LLM), and Central European University (LLM). He sits on the Editorial Board of the German Law Journal and is a member of the Committee on New Directions in Scholarship of the ICON•S, The International Society of Public Law. He was one of the 2021 ICONnect Blog Columnists and a member of the 2022 Annual Meeting Committee of the American Society of International Law.