Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Doris Buss and Ambreena Manji (eds.), International Law: Modern Feminist Approaches, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2005.


In his classic work, ‘Nomos and Narrative,’ Cover reminds us that legal traditions form part of a complex normative world – a ‘nomos’ – a world of language and myth. Because precept and narrative operate together to ground meaning, one cannot truly inhabit any given nomos without a rich understanding of its narratives. The very intelligibility of behaviour within the nomos inheres in the communal nature of common scripts or narratives for that behaviour. International law is also supplied with ‘history and destiny, beginning and end, explanation and purpose’ in and through narratives. In contrast with conventional approaches, new scholarship in international law has begun to reveal the extent that the discipline ‘operate(s) not only, or even principally, in the field of state systems, rationality and facts, but also in the field of identification, imagination, subjectivity and emotion.’ In this paper, we suggest that the ‘nomos’ of which Cover speaks and international law are connected through a shared reliance on a set of narratives concerning the origins of law. This can be seen most clearly in the context of interventions, both military and monetary, that are conducted under the auspices of nation-building.


This is a draft paper, not the final published version, and should not be cited. Cite the final published version, which can be found on the Bloomsbury site.