A one-day symposium hosted by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA), the Gender Research Group, the Newcastle Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice, and the Postcolonial Research Group

25 May 2013
Percy Building, Newcastle University

Organisers: Anne Whitehead, Carolyn Pedwell, and Neelam Srivastava

There has recently been significant attention paid to human rights in the humanities, and particularly in literary studies. Key works by Lynn Hunt (Inventing Human Rights, 2007) and Joseph Slaughter (Human Rights, Inc: The World Novel, Narrative Form and International Law, 2007) have specifically linked the emergence of human rights discourse to the novel form. More recently critics such as Ian Balfour and Eduardo Cadava have asked how literature might also challenge and question human rights discourse. This one-day symposium seeks to provide a space for opening up a critical examination of the relation between literature and human rights, asking how and with what effects the two terms might be linked.

The symposium expands out of a public reading by novelist Aminatta Forna, hosted by NCLA. For the symposium organisers, Forna’s novel The Memory of Love (2010) has provided a key site of dialogue on literature and human rights, and the symposium will build on the reading and conversation with Forna that will take place on 24 May 2013.

Key areas of discussion to be considered will be: the relation between literature and human rights; human rights and narrative; political, legal, and medical discourses on human rights; human rights, empathy and affect; human rights, witness and judgement; gender, human rights and the body; human rights and development; human rights and neo-colonialism.

If you are interested in attending, please email Anne Whitehead by 30 April, 2013. Please note that numbers will be limited to 20, in order to facilitate discussion.

The day runs from 9.30 – 5pm with presentations from:
  • Dr Zoe Norridge, King’s College, London: ‘Professional Uncertainty: Perceptions of suffering and the application of human rights in narratives by James Orbinski and Aminatta Forna’ (keynote)
  • Neelam Srivastava: ‘Political Oppression and the Memoir Genre: Remembering Resistance in The Devil That Danced on the Water by Aminatta Forna’
  • Madhu Krishnan: ‘Unreliable Narration, Verisimilitude and Responsibility in The Memory of Love’
  • Carolyn Pedwell: ‘Affective Translation: Empathy and The Memory of Love’
  • Anne Whitehead: ‘The Memory of Love: A Story of A Bridge’
  • Tom Frost: ‘Ranciere and Coetzee on the topic of dissensus’
  • Richard Mullender: TBC
  • Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge, University of East Anglia: ‘Reading Statelessness’ (keynote)


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