Literary Imaginaries of Human Rights

deadline for submissions: 
January 20, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
George Washington University English Graduate Students Association
contact email: 

Literary Imaginaries of Human Rights


“Ours is at once the Age of Human Rights and the Age of Human Rights Abuse,” declared Joseph Slaughter (2009) about the contemporary period. Although human rights has become the common moral language which enables an understanding of various forms of injustices in the world, it has failed to guarantee justice to marginalized groups (owing to their race, caste, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, social location, etc.) as human rights violations have become increasingly systematic, structural, corporate, and institutional. Such violations can also be framed as the afterlives of slavery and colonialism in the global context. What are the ways in which literature or literary forms respond to this? How do they critique injustice and produce new imaginaries of human rights?


The “interdiscipline” of Literature and Human Rights is not, as Goldberg and Moore (2012) claim, solely about “represent[ing] and render[ing] intelligible the philosophies, laws, and practices of human rights”. It is also about critiquing, re-evaluating and revisioning the idea of human rights by addressing the biases, exclusions, and paradoxes inherent in it, especially given the origin of (international) human rights in Western liberal, political, and legal epistemologies of rights, the human, and property. We are interested in exploring how literature – through its language, form, and narrative – provides a means to recognize the biases, exclusions, and paradoxes inherent in the idea of human rights. What theoretical insights about the human, personhood, subjectivity, agency, dignity, citizenship can we glean from literature?


The English Graduate Students Association of the George Washington University invites paper proposals that engage with the interface of Literature and Human Rights for their virtual conference that will take place on Feb 24, 2023. Topics/thematic interests may include, but are not restricted to:

  • The novel, poetry, testimonies, memoirs, drama/theater/performance, comics/graphic novels and human rights
  • Language/rhetoric of human rights/humanitarian rhetoric
  • Ethical, political and aesthetic complexities of human rights storytelling
  • Human rights literary criticism/modes of reading
  • Literary conceptions of human rights
  • Modes of Protest, Testimony, Lament, and Laughter (Michael Galchinsky)
  • Indigenous human rights
  • Queer studies and human rights
  • Disability studies and human rights
  • Environment and human rights
  • Refugees/migrants/immigrants and human rights
  • Feminist studies and human rights
  • Race/caste/class and human rights


Please submit 300-500 word abstracts for fifteen-minute presentations by January 20, 2023. All submissions must include the title of the proposed paper and a short bio (100 words). You can submit your abstracts using the following link:


For any queries, please reach out to (Leenu Sugathan).