What makes culture a question for international human rights discourse? This interdisciplinary seminar explores the diverse uses of culture as a concept in contemporary human rights theory and practice. Members of the seminar will be given an opportunity to examine the universalizing methods and aspirations of traditional -- and some not-so-traditional -- human rights programs and to measure these against another style of argument and analysis whose genealogy is thought or asserted to be more specifically cultural.
The seminar will introduce and discuss concepts from a variety of disciplines which might be used to understand and interrogate the categories that underwrite the opposition between human rights and culture. We will then examine the specific strategies of rhetoric and representation that construct and sustain the relationship between human rights and culture as a real or imagined problem, in academic debate and in the world of international law and power politics. Weekly seminar meetings will focus on close reading and discussion of a broad range of materials: transcripts of legal proceedings, international treaties, conventions and declarations, commission reports, and court judgments; scholarly work in law, history, literary and cultural studies, as well as political science and theory; journalism; literature, film and video.