"Human Rights and the Humanities"
News Release Date: January 10, 2012
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Research Triangle Park, N.C. One of the most striking features of the contemporary world is the extraordinary variety of situations that are claimed to involve human rights issues. Laws banning the wearing of the burqa, detentions of journalists or suspected terrorists, forced religious conversions, female genital mutilation, punishments for adultery, labor conditions in factories—all have occasioned charges of violations of human rights. The range of areas in which human rights violations have been alleged is vast, and includes trade and labor practices, penal codes, cultural customs, fetal rights, reproductive rights, and environmental issues. But do we know what human rights are? Can we describe the difference between human rights and other kinds of rights? Do we have an adequate understanding of rights, and of humans, as they are conceived in cultures around the world?
The National Humanities Center's new multiyear initiative, "Human Rights and the Humanities," will encourage a reexamination of conventional assumptions from a range of academic fields on debates surrounding human rights as they are conceived, discussed, adjudicated, and applied around the world. The initiative will be launched on March 15-16 with the first of three annual conferences. Participants in the first conference will include distinguished scholars in philosophy, political theory, literature, history, and anthropology from across the United States, Europe, and Asia, among them:
Elizabeth Anker / Cornell University
Ian Baucom / Duke University
Anat Biletzki / Tel Aviv University and Quinnipiac University
Wim Blockmans / Leiden University
Eduardo Cavada Princeton University
James Dawes / Macalester College
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham / Harvard University
Eva Kalny / Leibniz University Hannover
Samuel Moyn / Columbia University
Elaine Scarry / Harvard University
Joseph Slaughter / Columbia University
Domna Stanton / The Graduate Center, City University of New York
"The full range of issues surrounding human rights cannot be grasped by the language of statutes, treaties, declarations, or conventions; nor can human rights be reduced to on-the-ground negotiations," said Geoffrey Harpham, president and director of the National Humanities Center. "The 'Human Rights and the Humanities' project will bring together the vast resources of the humanities, including historical, philosophical, and cultural factors, to help understand the true definition of human rights."
Looking toward the future, the "Human Rights and Humanities" project will help stimulate and develop an academic online resource for college and university teachers who seek to teach about human rights with a humanities focus. This online resource will be modeled after the Center's acclaimed "Toolboxes" and will include downloadable primary documents, original essays, links to relevant websites, and a range of pedagogical tools. These resources will be available free of charge on the Center's website.
Human Rights and the Humanities is made possible through the generous support of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, Duke University, NC State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Registration for the conference is $35 ($15 for students with valid ID).
A detailed schedule of panel topics is available here (PDF).
About the National Humanities Center
The National Humanities Center, located in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina, is a private, non-profit institute for advanced study in the humanities. It is the only such institute in the world to be dedicated to the humanities. Since it opened its doors in 1978, the Center has provided residential fellowships to more than 1,300
scholars from all parts of the United States and from three dozen other nations. Up to forty Fellows are chosen annually to pursue their own research and writing and to benefit from the exchange of ideas with colleagues during an academic year at the Center. The Center is also a national leader in humanities education.