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Negotiating Human Rights

23-25 January, 2014

Negotiating Human Rights: Aesthetic, Cultural, and Political Framings

The aim of this conference is to focus on the multiple ways that human rights are framed through specific aesthetic, cultural and political discourses. The conference will facilitate an interdisciplinary discussion about this in a both historical and contemporary context.

The conference is motivated by the increasing use of human rights in global, political and cultural contexts and the simultaneous lack of consensus regarding their precise definition and function. Human rights discourses are used in the construction of cultural identity and political communities but at the same time, a question is raised regarding the nature of communality: we are all human beings but what is human about human rights and how does this human nature qualify us as bearers of rights within specific cultural and political contexts?

The conference will focus on the rhetorical, aesthetic, and mediatised framing of human rights: how do human rights-narrations work, how are they used to create empathy, what is the form and function of atrocity tales or tales of victimhood, what is the relation between documentary and fictional strategies, how do we talk about human rights in political debates and in television shows, literature, movies, on the net etc.? There is a constant translation-process going on between law, politics, and culture. This ‘translation’ is not pure and neutral but motivated and based on selection and rhetorical choices. This conference focuses on the changes – losses and gains – of concrete mediatised human rights discourses in specific contexts.

Confirmed keynote speakers

  • Costas Douzinas (Professor of Law and Director of Birkbeck Institue for Humanities, Birckbeck, University of London)
  • Susan Maslan (Associate Professor, Dep. of French, University of California, Berkeley, USA)
  • Joseph Slaughter (Associate Professor, Dep. of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York, USA)
  • Lena Halldenius (Professor of Human Rights, and Director of Human Rights Program, Dep. of History, University of Lund, Sweden)

Conference details


January 23-25, 2014


building 1584, Entrance B, room 124,
Dep. of Aesthetics and Communication

Aarhus University
Langelandsgade 139
8000 Aarhus C


Registration before January 5, 2014 at


The conference is organized by Humanistic Studies of Human Rights