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Seeing Suffering: Human Rights Advocacy in Film (Abstracts due 9/30/13
full name / name of organization:
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Northeast Modern
45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag identifies images as suffering as a form of visual rhetoric that make “’real’ (or ‘more real’) matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore (6-7).” The suffering can no longer be ignored, and as such calls the viewer to react in some way. Film, with its inclusion of sound and movement, operates more viscerally than the still image. The inclusion of a moving cinematic space that closely replicates that of “real” life is inextricably linked to the evocation of a physical and psychological response. This confrontational nature of cinema reveals a peculiar position of advocacy for film when imitating or representing atrocity. In a visual culture, human rights violations become increasingly more difficult to hide (or hide from). This panel seeks to examine the power of cinema in rendering human rights in/visible, particularly the possibility for activism/action in the cinematic portrayal of human rights atrocities. Of interest are papers that interrogate the ethics of narrative healing for and by the victim, comparative considerations of this phenomenon in mediums other than film (charity, literature, mission work), distinctions in “real” and “fictional” suffering in documentary and narrative cinemas, and the role of new media in contemporary advocacy (KONY, WITNESS project, etc.). Papers that address the specific visual nature of cinema to evoke action/inaction in audiences when confronted with atrocity are highly desired.
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The 2014 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. This capital city set on the Susquehanna River is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, historical sites, the National Civil War museum, and nearby Amish Country, antique shops and Hershey Park. NeMLA has arranged low hotel rates of $104-$124.