CFP: [20th] Human Rights and Literature: Theory from African Perspective

full name / name of organization: 
Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg
contact email: 

We are seeking proposals for one essay on the subject of African
approaches to literature and human rights.

As evidenced by scholarly production, major conferences, and course
offerings, the interdisciplinary pairing of human rights and literature
has gained necessary momentum since 2001. Still, there are few book-
length studies to accompany and help define this growing field and none
that fully address the foundational issues of theorizing this new sub-
field. We have had initial interest from the University of Pennsylvania
Press Series in Human Rights and are seeking at least one essay on the
subject of African approaches to literature and human rights.

If there is a danger that, in Upendra Baxi’s words, “human rights…is a
moral language (like those of ‘social justice’, ‘equality’,
and ‘redistribution’) that is simply exhausted,” how might literary
discourses reinvigorate it? And if “education in the Humanities attempts
to be an uncoercive rearrangement of desires” (Spivak), what are we
teaching (for) when we teach literature and/of human rights? Possible
questions to consider may include: How may “human rights” be defined as
an approach to global literary production? How is the relationship
between the literary subject, the reading subject, and the subject who
bears rights negotiated from a specifically African context? How are
human rights and literary narratologies related? How do we incorporate
critiques of human rights and its link to Western imperialism into
approaches to African and African diasporic literatures? How are the
material conditions of the production and circulation of global
literatures and rights related? Why and how is this theoretical and
methodological approach significant in our contemporary historical
moment? What does postcolonialism have to do with human rights in an
African literary context?

Please send a 500-word proposal and c.v. to both editors by 15 October
2008; general inquiries are also welcome.

Contact: Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg, Associate Professor, English
           Babson College (
  Alexandra Schultheis, Associate Professor, English,
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (

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Received on Sun Aug 03 2008 - 10:32:00 EDT