Cover of Imagining the International by Nesam McMillan
Imagining the International
Crime, Justice, and the Promise of Community
Nesam McMillan


224 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503602014
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612815
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612822

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Winner of the 2021 Hart-SLSA Book Prize, sponsored by the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA).

International crime and justice are powerful ideas, associated with a vivid imagery of heinous atrocities, injured humanity, and an international community seized by the need to act. Through an analysis of archival and contemporary data, Imagining the International provides a detailed picture of how ideas of international crime (crimes against all of humanity) and global justice are given content, foregrounding their ethical limits and potentials. Nesam McMillan argues that dominant approaches to these ideas problematically disconnect them from the lived and the specific and foster distance between those who have experienced international crime and those who have not. McMillan draws on interdisciplinary work spanning law, criminology, humanitarianism, socio-legal studies, cultural studies, and human geography to show how understandings of international crime and justice hierarchize, spectacularize, and appropriate the suffering of others and promote an ideal of justice fundamentally disconnected from life as it is lived. McMillan critiques the mode of global interconnection they offer, one which bears resemblance to past colonial global approaches and which seeks to foster community through the image of crime and the practice of punitive justice. This book powerfully underscores the importance of the ideas of international crime and justice and their significant limits, cautioning against their continued valorization.

About the author

Nesam McMillan is a Senior Lecturer in Global Criminology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

"The concepts of international crime and international justice, and the global documents, laws and institutions that aim to put these ideas into practice, are typically promoted as a moral good, a sign of humanity's progress towards a global community. Imagining the International lucidly and convincingly shows why these 'captivating' and 'beautiful' ideas are an ambivalent gift. Through a series of compelling case studies, Nesam McMillan explores the unanticipated effects of international crime and justice—the hierarchies of universal versus local, the legacies of colonialism and the sacrifice of local concerns to an international agenda. Questioning the idea of grounding international solidarity in criminal justice, she urges us to think in more complex and demanding ways about the nature of global interconnection and how it can be fostered in ways that genuinely benefit local communities. This is a timely and provocative book which provides both a map and a critique—it will be valued by scholars and students alike."

—Rosanne Kennedy, Australian National University

"This insightful book is a much-needed corrective antidote to the nostrums of internationalism. Nesam McMillan unwraps how violence that crosses the gaze of international law becomes appreciated but also appropriated and othered at the same time. This book is a compelling call for inclusiveness and a powerful exhortation for globality to transcend post-coloniality."

—Mark A. Drumbl, Washington and Lee University

"Imagining the International is an innovative, compelling and much-needed intervention. Forcing us to rethink our assumptions, McMillan questions how certain crimes are established as globally important and others not, and explores the ethical, cultural, and political implications of creating hierarchies of suffering delinked from human experience."

—Eve Darian-Smith, University of California, Irvine

"Instead of the idealized discourse about exceptional crimes as a spectacle that objectifies the victims, the global justice project needs to be newly conceptualized from the positions of equality and solidarity. McMillan's book is an important step in this direction."

—Katarina Ristic, Connections