Studies: Comp/Rhet/Language (Human Rights Rhetoric)

Description. This class takes a rhetorical approach to human rights inquiry, following Lyon and Olson’s (2012) call to consider “the human rights implications of language and symbolism by examining the hierarchical significance of words, definitions, re-definitions, symbols designating social groupings, myths, rituals, symbolic images, and the like.” This semester-long inquiry will trace the historical development, controversies, and cultural divergences of human rights discourse. The class will consider, in-depth, how audiences relate to articulated rights and individuals/communities whose rights have been violated. Students will interrogate rhetorical processes, forms, and concepts representing/portraying human rights concerns.

Salient Questions. The class will engage with questions such as: How do we ethically represent and respond to human rights violations? How do we leverage language and technology to deal with human rights atrocities? What roles do material and historical conditions play in the construction of human rights representations? What do traditions of witnessing and testifying teach us about peacemaking and healing? What counter-discourses exist that offer alternatives to the Western paradigm of human rights?

Assignments. Assignments will include a series of short, informal essays in response to the readings, student presentations, a formal academic essay (the “term paper”), and a take-home exam.

Required Texts. All required texts will be provided as electronic files on Laulima.