Guest Lecture

How to Kick Ass When Life Is a Bitch: The Story of Human Rights

Event Information

  • Wednesday, July 11, 2018
  • Emil-Abderhalden-Str. 26-27, SR 10
  • 06108 Halle (Saale)

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How to Kick Ass When Life Is a Bitch: The Story of Human Rights

Prof. Asha Varadharajan (Queen's University)

Roundtable with Prof. Asha Varadharajan, Department of English, Queen’s University, Kingston ON, Canada

Samuel Moyn has recently argued that faith in human rights might be “the last utopia” in an increasingly violent and unjust world.  ​T​his ​workshop​ explores narratives, contexts, and practices that nuance, alter, or even challenge the notion of human rights.  Our aim is to discover why, despite failures and impasses,  people continue to rally under its banner and insist that it signifies both hope and the possibility of justice.  Some of the concerns that will preoccupy us are: ​gender, violence, and human rights; ​the relation between suffering and spectacle; “compassion fatigue”; the limits of empathy; cultural difference and universalism; humanitarian intervention; human rights as  Bildungsroman; justice and vengeance; law, political economy​, environmental catastrophe​ and entitlement to human rights.

Asha Varadharajan is Associate Professor of English at Queen’s University.  She is the author of Exotic Parodies: Subjectivity in Adorno, Said, and Spivak (University of Minnesota Press, 1995). Her writing and public speaking engage the broad sweep of postcolonial, cosmopolitan, global, secular, rights, migration, and development debates. Her most recent essays have appeared in The Puritan Literary Magazine, Cultural Studies, College Literature, Kunapipi, University of Toronto Quarterly, TOPIA, CSSAAME, and Modern Language Quarterly.  She has contributed chapters to books on human rights, biopolitics, and intercultural discourse.  The most fun she has had lately was writing her essay on Eric Idle for the Dictionary of Literary Biography. The most flattered and chuffed she has been was when her students nominated her for the W.J. Barnes Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching in 2017.

This time Prof. Varadharajan is a visting prof. in Comparative Literature; the roundtable is arranged and offered in cooperation with the Muhlenberg Center for American Studies and the research cluster “Society and Culture in Motion”. Everyone interested in the topic is welcome to attend.