Between: International Law in The City & The City and Embassytown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In his scholarly monograph, Between Equal Rights, China Mieville argues that international law both constitutes and is constituted by political tensions and outright violence. His fiction reflects similar sentiments, which this paper teases out. It will focus on The City and the City and Embassytown, where law plays a central role in the construction of the worlds he creates. In the first, the law allows two communities to relate to each other through protocols and rules that do not arise from a legislature but from practices and customs that have emerged through time – in the same way that international law has emerged through custom. Embassytown, in contrast, also relies upon legal codes and protocols, but ones that have arisen from an imperial context. The paper uses Mieville’s novels to explore the role of law in these “between” spaces and probes the tensions to which international law is subject in the current international order. Specifically, it argues that law in The City and the City is what international law ought to do in international affairs, but Embassytown reflects how international law cannot escape its imperial past, a past which exposes its fragility in the modern world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChina Mieville
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Essays
EditorsCaroline Edwards, Tony Venezia
Place of PublicationCanterbury
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78024-029-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-78024-027
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Publication series

NameContemporary Writers: Critical Essays


  • China Mieville, International Law, Marxism


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