Connections between Postcolonial Studies, Human Rights, and Literary Studies

full name / name of organization: 
Lena Khor
contact email: 

I'm seeking scholars interested in forming a panel on postcolonialism and human rights for the conference "What Postcolonial Theory Doesn't Say" at the University of York, UK, 3-5 July 2010, in partnership with the University of Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Here is the panel I'm proposing:
This seminar intends to examine the points of coherence and departure between postcolonialism and human rights as two approaches to literary study. How might texts from the "postcolonial canon" – Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart or Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, or Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness – be studied or taught differently when analyzed from the perspective of the human, or from the legal concepts of human rights (civil and political rights, or social, cultural, and economic rights, or individual and group rights)? How might human rights-oriented documentary theatre plays like My Name is Rachel Corrie or Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo's Guantanamo be performed or experienced differently when framed in terms of national liberation versus international human rights?

This seminar seeks papers on such questions as: Is "human rights and literature" a possible future direction for "postcolonial studies"? That is, if the political struggle for national independence and against colonization by foreign states was one of the main concerns of postcolonial studies, then is that struggle being reconfigured by scholars and activists as a legal battle for human rights and against neo-colonization by what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have called "empire"? If so, what shifts in postcolonial studies (in theory and practice as scholars or activists) might be needed? What can scholarship in the emerging field of human rights and literature bring to postcolonial studies and vice versa, especially in the aesthetics and ethics of representation?

If interested, please email a 100-250-word paper abstract and 50-word bio to by Friday, Sept. 25.