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The Culture of Human Rights

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Organizer: Muhammad Waqar Azeem

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Sophia A. McClennen and Joseph R. Slaughter in “Introducing Human Rights and Literary Forms” warn: “Human rights are under threat everywhere, especially when the language of human rights is used to justify their violation” (Comparative Literature Studies 2009). They notice that through double-speak the states exercise violence to advance their jingoist agenda in the name of protecting the rights of the children and women, as George Bush did while invading Afghanistan in 2001. James Dawes complements this foregoing view in his “Human Rights in Literary Studies” when he argues that aesthetics captures human rights because both categories deal with “human dignity” (Human Rights Quarterly 2009). In his more recent and advanced study The Novel of Human Rights (2016) Dawes brings the American novel in tension with the ethical pressures on the novelists to engage civil rights in the US. In their recent edited book Technologies of Human Rights Representation (2022), Moore and Dawes connect the question of human rights with representation: “Human rights as representation, then, ask questions like these: How do new technologies not only change the modes available to us to shape and disseminate information but also set the parameters for what counts as information, what counts as representable?”

To extend the above debate, and to negotiate and reflect on human rights through literary and cultural studies, this panel engages with the representations and their forms which do not count as such in the popular imagination. Please submit your proposals of 250-words which focus on the peripheral literary and cultural representations of human rights, and which bear witness to the gross violations not being recognized in the mainstream discourse.

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