CFP: Human Rights: Lost in Translation? (11/30/05; ACLA, 3/23/06-3/26/06)

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American Comparative Literature Association Conference: "The Human
and Its Others." March 23-26, 2006 at Princeton University

Seminar Panel: Human Rights: "Lost" in Translation?

Seminar Organizer: J. Paul Narkunas, Pratt Institute

A “simple” question: In which language would universal human rights be
expressed? That “non-universal” particular, the English language? By
diagnosing the plight of stateless peoples and the failures of minority
treaties after WWI, Hannah Arendt argued that the possibility for human
rights would be inextricably linked with the sovereign power of
nation-states. While the bulk of engagements with human rights have
focused on the legal machinery of the modern state--the role of the
decision and the exception, and the proliferation of extra-juridical
territories--the function of language for materially enacting these
policies has not borne the same scrutiny. Since Aristotle, sovereign
powers like the nation-state have mobilized the category of the “human
subject” as a being capable of language. Yet the nation-state adjudicates
the limits of the human subject because people can only be recognized as
human “within a particular national language.” A concept of universal
humanity seems aporetic.

This panel welcomes papers on how language enfigures the human to provide
the stable locus around which legal measures such as “rights” can be
declared. Given the imperial and colonial legacies of the British and
American empires, what hegemonic roles may “Global English” play to affect
the possibilities of rights before issues of legality, "governmentality,"
natural or civil rights could be claimed? What role will translation
perform in articulating, defending, or foreclosing the possibility of
rights? How will language mediate the emergence of extra-legal zones
where some forms of life are thrown into camps? What may get "lost" in

All paper proposals (maximum 250 words) should be submitted directly
through the ACLA site:

The American Comparative Literature Association annual conference is
organized into seminars (or "streams"), which consist either of
twelve papers, if they meet on all three days of the conference, or eight
to nine papers, if they meet on two days. Papers should be 15-20 minutes
long to allow time for discussion. For further information about the
conference, including the format, please see

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at,
but all abstracts must be submitted through the online form.

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Received on Sun Nov 27 2005 - 16:44:54 EST

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