CFP: [Cultural-Historical] In the Name of "Human Rights"? Social Movements, Global Visions and Egalitarian Narratives

full name / name of organization: 
Nilima Rabl
contact email: 

American Comparative Literature Association
Annual Meeting - 2009

“Global Languages, Local Cultures”

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

March 26-29, 2009

CFP - Seminar:

In the Name of "Human Rights"? Social Movements, Global Visions and
Egalitarian Narratives

The idea that humans are essentially and qualitatively the same has been
deliberated for thousands of years at least, as can be seen from ancient
codices recorded by various cultures. Formulated more particularly for the
modern “Western” context as an enlightenment response to aristocratic rule,
religious wars and political revolutions, “human rights” were formally
drafted into secular international law in the 20th century. Specifically in
the wake of the two world wars, the notion that “all human beings are born
free and equal in dignity and rights” (as rendered by Article 1 of the
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948) has
mobilized pervasive social changes and upheavals in communities across the
globe: from European unification efforts to the ongoing war in Iraq, from
the streamlining of governmental institutions to the grassroots
emancipation of marginalized populations (such as abolitionist, indigenous,
dalit, womyn, queer, religious, labor or national liberation movements).

In light of such universal appeal, it commonly goes unspoken that
“humanitarian law” or the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” are
written and read in particular times and locales, and that they promote
certain conceptions of Reality (e.g. Judeo-Christian, secular humanist,
individualist, libertarian). This panel wants to explore how these
particularities affect the definition, interpretation, application,
translation, cross-fertilization, materialization and narrativization of
“human rights” in diverse contexts.

Historically, literature has played a prominent part in the construction of
human rights as a universal concept. As the category of literature and its
traditional scope continue to be redefined, which new trajectories for
creative inquiry into the civil and philosophical foundations of the human
become revealed? What constitutes the basis of equality; how is it
constructed? What valorizes being?

Seminar Organizer:
Nilima Rabl (, SUNY Binghamton

Please send your paper suggestions by November 3rd through the ACLA


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Received on Wed Oct 29 2008 - 19:29:12 EST