“Constitution making is a messy undertaking”, a professor warned me, when I first presented my all too neat theoretical research proposal. After my fieldwork in Libya, I know he was right. In 2011, the 17th February Revolution led to the demise of Colonel Gaddafi, who had ruled the country for 42 years. Today, the Libyan constitution making process is taking place in the midst of violent power struggles, a volatile political situation and in the absence of state governed law and order.

By ليبي صح (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In this context, I set out for fieldwork in Libya (and Tunisia) to understand how the Libyan constitution would be drafted in practice. I conducted interviews with a broad range of national and international experts, members of the Constitution Making Assembly (CDA) but also with members of the Libyan society generally. I was able to witness nuanced debates on constitutional issues not only in official meeting rooms, but also on market squares. Numerous casual conversations with friends, taxi drivers, or coffee shop owners showed me that constitutional language is used not only by experts, but that it is also appropriated by people on the street. I discovered that in Libya, the making of a constitution is not a mere technical legal exercise, but that it touches the hopes and aspirations of the country’s population. The Libyan constitution-making process is deeply embedded in an often chaotic and contingent social, political and historical context. I am currently reworking my all too neat theoretical framework.