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International law often makes storytellers of onlookers. The stories that gain scholarly and popular traction are of a common genre, focusing on international law from the top down. They typically center on a state's treaty-based commitments or on an intergovernmental institution born from a treaty. They open with diplomats at majestic negotiating tables, secluded in remote yet pristine locations, wrangling politely over the text of a treaty. The climaxes are photo-opportunity events-a treaty-signing ceremony or the founding of a new institution. The denouement is the "trickle-down," the inevitably imperfect business of translating international law into domestic or transnational practice. This traditional, top-down international lawmaking story tells of state actors making international law and imposing it on others who may have been quite removed, geographically and politically, from the entire lawmaking process.

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