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Crystal Parikh’s chapter on dissolution takes up narrative fragmentation to thematize outward-moving fictions of “interruption, isolation, suspense, and precarity.” Starting with Valeria Luiselli’s interviews with migrant asylum-seekers, Parikh argues that a defining feature of contemporary literature is its formal techniques of “dissolution and the fragment as vital aesthetic and stylistic forms to convey the splintering effect that global modernity in the twenty-first century induces.” From Luiselli to George Saunders’s short stories and novels by Celeste Ng and Jesmyn Ward, among others, Parikh argues that nineteenth- and twentieth-century narrative techniques have been remixed by contemporary authors who draw on realism and experimentalism to tell stories of ongoing and unresolved dislocation and vulnerability.
This chapter considers the hemisphere as a geopolitical heuristic for Asian American literature. While the era of 1965 to 1996 is considered pivotal for new growth in Asian American populations in the United States because of liberal reforms in immigration policy, it was also one in which the expansion of the global Cold War led US power to brutally target newly decolonized and revolutionary societies in its fight against Communism. This chapter examines how diasporic Asian literatures from the period illuminate the mechanisms of “development” from the Cold War to the neoliberal, postsocialist present. Beyond registering the presence of Asians in the Americas since the sixteenth century, the chapter argues that various “hemispheric imaginings” grapple with the disavowed operations of political violence by which Latin American and Asian nations were “transitioned” from a region of nonaligned, postcolonial republics to capitalist states ruled by comprador and transnational elites. At the same time, a hemispheric imaginary provides a method for reading artists’ visions of alternate, shared futures and South–South, transracial solidarities that continue to haunt the postcolonial world.
This chapter gives an overview of the current debates regarding the way human rights has been defined and historicized. It argues that understanding these debates is crucial for an understanding of the ways in which human lights matter to literary study. Referencing the works of Johannes Morsink, Paul Gordon Lauren, Lynn Hunt, and Samuel Moyn, the author moves the through the varied points of origin and genealogies of human rights as we understand them today. The chapter shows that this present concept is by no means unambiguous, and argues that literature and its analysis provides us with one of the best ways to investigate the historical and political tensions that exist at its very foundations.
Most legal and juridical proceedings depend upon fixed positions with regards to human rights claims, especially where violations of rights are concerned, those of victims, perpetrators, witnesses, and sometimes, although to a lesser extent, beneficiaries. However, the social and political realities in which rights are embedded usually prove much murkier. For example, those who carry out atrocities one minute, might find themselves the object of state violence the next; witnesses who receive reparations or are able to sell their stories might seem like less innocent beneficiaries of the events of which they’ve given accounts, and a much broader notion of culpability calls into question the function or efficaciousness of identifying individual perpetrators. This chapter argues that literature is especially well-suited for evincing and elaborating such ambiguities and contradictions that inhere in the history and politics of human rights.
This chapter looks at two nexuses: law-and-literature and human-rights-and-literature. In her analysis of Charles Reznikoff’s book-length poem Testimony: the United States (1885-1915): Recitative (1978), the author brings the law-and-literature paradigm to bear on literary expression of human rights. She finds in the text overlapping ideations of the procedural and the performative, in its juridical and literary dimensions. On the one hand, the text serves to show the limitations of the law and its technologies such as the trial, which literary performance can help compensate for. On the other hand, Reznikoff's poem also proves the necessity for these technologies as organizing principles, especially in methods like citation and precedent, in order to battle the ever present risk of erasure.
This introduction provides an introduction to the entire volume, including an overview of the field of human rights and literature, the aims and objectives of the Companion, and its organizational structure.
This chapter considers how forms of narrative literature, particularly life-writing, serve as technologies in the making of the modern personhood that in turn anchor contemporary human rights. Drawing from Benveniste’s work on the relationship between grammatical personhood and subjectivity, the chapter is structured into “gradations” of personhood, examining their implications on human rights discourse and its subjects. The first-person form common to life-writing, with its centering of the speakerly “I,” operates in the ethical domain of sentiment and empathy; whereas the second-person form of the testimony, with it’s construction of an “I-you,” depends more on a process of interpellation than empathizing. Meanwhile, the third-person form, which may seem less relevant to human rights discourse, provides insight into the ways in which collective bodies, such as corporations, lay claim to human rights. The chapter closes with a reflection on posthumanism and the zero-person or non-human as a potential departure point for probing the limits of the human subject that underlies human rights discourse.
Literature has been essential to shaping the notions of human personhood, good life, moral responsibility, and forms of freedom that have been central to human rights law, discourse, and politics. The literary study of human rights has also recently generated innovative and timely perspectives on the history, meaning, and scope of human rights. The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights and Literature introduces this new and exciting field of study in the humanities. It explores the historical and institutional contexts, theoretical concepts, genres, and methods that literature and human rights share. Equally accessible to beginners in the field and more advanced researches, this Companion emphasizes both the literary and interdisciplinary dimensions of human rights and the humanities.