Feminism, Imperialism and the Mission of International Law

In: Nordic Journal of International Law
Orford Associate Professor, Law School, University of Melbourne, Australia

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This special issue of the Nordic Journal of International Law is testimony to the range of international interventions that have been enabled by the energies and insights of feminism. Each of the contributions to this issue is an attempt to think through what it means to read and write feminist legal theory in an age dominated by internationalist narratives, whether of globalization and harmonization, or of high-tech wars on terror and for humanity. This introductory article sketches some of the ethical and political questions that face those of us who attempt to develop a feminist practice of engaging with the projects of international law, whether in the fields of human rights, military intervention, post-conflict reconstruction or economic globalization. In particular, I explore the extent to which feminist internationalism is haunted by the shades of those nineteenth-century European feminists whose role in facilitating empire is undergoing much exploration. In order to think through the ethical issues involved in developing a feminist reading of international law, this article outlines some of the ways in which feminist legal theory is invited to participate in the project of constituting women and the international community. I consider some of the dangers involved in accepting this invitation, and propose alternative methodologies for undertaking the risky project of reading international law.

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