Academic Quarter, "The Aesthetics of Human Rights"
Call for Papers Date:
Issue 5 of Academic Quarter
Theme: The Aesthetics of Human Rights
Human rights are a historical, cultural and politico-legal theme with a high level
of contemporary significance. As Michael Ignatieff has argued, the human rights
ideal has undergone a "revolution" in the second half of the twentieth century: its
growth from a limited concept pertaining to international institutions (specifically
the UN) to a broad social concept deployed by ranges of grassroots social movements
and individual actors. Human rights are ingrained in both national and international
law; human rights gain modicums of representation via both the aesthetics of
"everyday life" as well as high politics. The development of human rights in the
second half of the twentieth century was enriched by the events of 1989. In line
with Francis Fukuyama's controversial but nonetheless accurate thesis, 1989
unleashed the forces of liberalism on a global scale - individuality and cultural
difference as Fukuyama (as well as Samuel Huntington) have argued, are grounded in
the discourses, claims and practices of late twentieth and early twenty-first
century international political culture. Indeed, contemporary deployments of human
rights also involve reactions against the preeminence of liberalism and "Western"
cultural practice. A phenomenological vocabulary, if one is allowed, might discuss a
"life-world" of rights - global, everyday environments of rights playing a liminal
role in contemporary global culture. Human rights gain life, or "animation," via
their articulation in political culture as well as art, advertising, written
fiction, film, electronic media, the Internet, "lifestyle," fashion and journalistic
This issue of Academic Quarter proposes to address the mulitplicious dimensions of
"human rights aesthetics." Work on this exists in texts such as Lynn Hunt's (2007)
Inventing Human Rights, Joseph Slaughter's Human Rights Inc.: The World Novel,
Narrative Form, and International Law (2007), D. Soyini Madison's (2011) Acts of
Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance and articles such as Giovanna
Borradori's "Tiny Sparks of Contingency: On the Aesthetics of Human Rights" (2012)
(among others). The current AQ issue will develop this issue. How do we find the
representation of rights as part of our daily environments, ingrained into visual,
aural and textual spaces making senses of rights, their sustenance and reality as
"pre-given?" How do we span representational spaces in which rights are a matter of
fiction - film, books, videogames - but also fiction's attachment to "fact": actual
historical events and concrete human rights violations? How do we gain senses of our
times as defined by human rights - human rights as a "master term," as Arjun
Appadurai phrased it, or "cultural dominant," in the words of Frederic Jameson?
What, after all, are the aesthetics of human rights, and what modes of textual,
intellectual-historical, critical-theoretical, sociological and
philosophical-aesthetic investigation may we bring to bear on rights "culture?"
Authors with human rights interests from cultural studies, media studies, sociology,
history, art history, film studies, discourse studies, literary studies, philosophy,
intellectual history and other relevant areas are asked to submit abstracts to
contribute to a thorough treatment of the "aesthetics of human rights."
Suggestion for articles, including an abstract of 150 words to be mailed to
Karen-Margrethe Simonsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ben Dorfman (email@example.com) no
later than June the 1st 2012. Accepted articles - using the Harvard System Style
Sheet - should be mailed to the editors no later than August the 1st 2012. Articles
will then be reviewed anonymously. The articles should be around 15,000-25,000
keystrokes (around 3,500 words).
The issue will be published in December 2012.
Academic Quarter has been approved according to the Danish bibliometrical system for
2011 and forward.
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