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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

15 - Routing Emotions, Forming Humans

from Part IV - Writing Human Rights


This chapter considers how specific aesthetic styles and rhetorical frames correspond to and alter the affective dimensions, primarily shame and empathy, of human rights discourse and politics. From the sentimental pathos by which NGOs often publicize humanitarian campaigns, deep anger and melancholy that saturate testimonies from human rights victims and survivors, and the gallows humor by which prisoners often manage to survive their embattled positions, negotiating human rights has been as much a matter of the heart and of feeling, as it is of the head. Human rights advocates and liberal humanitarianism have long relied on a certain set of stock emotions to convey the urgency of their endeavors, which literary forms can shore up but also disrupt in unpredictable ways.

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