1 May 2013: Andrew March Explores Divine and Popular Sovereignty in the Arab Spring

On 1 May 2013, Professor Andrew March presented his draft article, A Caliphate of Man? Divine and Popular Sovereignty in Islamist Political Theology, at the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium. March is Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

March’s article, part of a larger book project, provides a historical and conceptual background to certain contemporary attempts to harmonize ideals of divine and popular sovereignty. In particular, he examines the pre-2011 doctrines of Tunisian Islamist leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, particularly his attempt to reconcile visions of divine and popular sovereignty through the doctrine of a universal covenant of vicegerency. March contrasts Ghannouchi’s doctrine of a “caliphate of man” with other modern attempts to institutionalize divine sovereignty in Saudi Arabia and Iran, while suggesting a set of ambiguities this doctrine raises both for the idea of rule by divine law and for post-revolutionary expectations of democracy within a “civil state.”

At the colloquium, March elaborated on the concept of the caliphate of man, which suggests that the Islamic community is collectively designated as God’s caliph (or deputy on Earth), and thus entitled to a direct role in determining how to define divine law. He discussed how this concept might be used to shape a democratic system of governance in Muslim-majority nations. He also described how the caliphate of man doctrine differs from the approach taken to governing in the theocratic states of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

March’s talk concluded the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium for the 2012-13 academic year. In fall 2013, the Constitutional Transitions & Global and Comparative Law Colloquium: Emerging From / Sliding Back into Authoritarianism, will convene. More information on this colloquium series is available here.