The International Conference on Human Rights and the Humanities; May 9-11, 2012; Beirut

full name / name of organization: 
American University of Beirut

The International Conference on Human Rights and the Humanities will be hosted by American University of Beirut May 9-11, 2012.

In the October 2006 PMLA special issue on human rights, Domna Stanton argues that the humanities provides a "set of interpretive and critical discourses and practices … that aim to dissent from and revise traditional or dominant readings and understandings" (1519). As such, when the humanities are placed in conversation with human rights discourse, a space for critique, interrogation, and exploration opens; yet at the same time the humanities remain grounded in a western Enlightenment tradition which often reifies power imbalances present in human rights discourse. Building from this paradoxical relationship, The International Conference on Human Rights and the Humanities at American University of Beirut seeks to continue the push of human rights discourse from exclusively legal and political discourses and open it to alternative framings, questions and perspectives that the humanities can offer. This move creates a space to (re)imagine the ways in which human rights are represented, narrated, implemented, and enforced.

While at its core this conference engages with systemic issues and the globalization of human rights, particular interest will be paid to the ME/NA region in the midst of the ongoing Arab Spring. Beirut's location as a crossroads of cultures (Phoenician, Roman, Ottoman, French, and Arab to name a few) coupled with its modern cosmopolitan flair provides a unique setting for such a vital conversation.

Some possible topics include:
W(r)i(gh)ting Rights
Who is the human in human rights?
What role does narrative play in constructing a subject of rights
The universal / particular dichotomy
Pedagogical approaches for human rights in the humanities classroom
What are the origins of rights and what does that suggest about human rights today?
The globalization of human rights
Comparative approaches to human rights
The role of critique in human rights discourse
The ethics of reading and representing trauma / atrocities
Aesthetics and human rights
Alternative approaches to a Eurocentric rights model
Film and human rights
Indigenous rights and the nation-state
Commodification of human rights
Humanitarianism vs. human rights

Please send abstracts (maximum 300 words) or session proposals (maximum 500 words) and brief CV by 15 Nov 2011. Notifications will be sent by 15 December 2011. On your abstracts and session proposals please include your name, institution, city, state and / or country, email address and phone number. E-mail your abstracts/session proposals as a Word file. Please note that each presentation is limited to 25 minutes (including questions).

Questions may be addressed to the conference chair: Dr. Alexander Hartwiger at

Department of English
American University of Beirut
Fisk Hall, Rm 221
PO Box 11-0236
Beirut 1107 2020 - Lebanon