Nomos and Native American Narratives: The Duality of Law in the Liberal State

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Violence, liberal, constitutionalism, law, Robert Cover


The law in a liberal state is often a violent instrument. So said Robert Cover. Among those communities to which the law has been particularly cruel are Native Americans. Indeed, the traditions and practices of Native American tribes have spawned rich and fascinating narratives. Each tribe has created its own “nomos – its own normative universe” – with a distinct set of rules, expectations, and tenets. Even still, the state and federal governments have historically challenged Native American traditions and culture with various legal and judicial policies. Insofar as the state-imposed law is blunt and imprecise, certain Native American narratives are thus threatened. Over the past decade, several judicial cases have highlighted the clash between the state’s imperial authority and Native American narratives. Our chapter explores these court cases with an eye to the inevitable conflicts that emerge when law exists uneasily in a liberal state.

Published In

Special Issue: Law and the Liberal State (Book Series: Studies in Law, Politics and Society) Emerald Group Publishing Limited




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