Human Rights in South Asian Migration and Diaspora

MAGAART: A Seminar on
Democracy, Stability & Rights
7-8 December 2015, Kenya
A Seminar on Democracy Stability & Rights
Kenya 7-8 Nov. 2015
Bhawana Pokhrel
Email: [email protected]
[email protected]
Mobile: 9856022910
Affiliated institution
Tribhuvan University
Faculty: Humanities
Department: English
We are criminals in the eyes of the earth, not only
for having committed crimes, but because we
know that crimes have been committed.(50)
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (2003)
Home and Human Rights in South Asian Migration
and Diaspora Literary Discourse
South Asian Migration and Diaspora Literary Texts
Diary of the Desert (2011)- Devendra Bhattrai
Atlantic Street (2008) - Rajab
Turtle Nest (2003) - Chandani Lukege
Anil’s Ghost (2000) - Michael Ondaatje
A House for Mr Biswas (1961) - V.S Naipaul
Discoursing Human Rights Through Literature
Articulation of the Inarticulate…
Human rights and literature are intertwined as interdisciplinary
studies (Schaffer & Smith 2).
[Ref: Article number 19 and 29.]
The UDHR 1948 recognizes the ‘rights of individuals…to
challenge unjust state law or oppressive customary practice”
(Schaffer and Smith 3).
Individuals have already initiated this process:
1. By telling their stories to human rights advocates.
2. By inscribing the issues in the literary works.
Depiction of HR Issues in Novels…
“Novels represent violence; they do not stop it,
not directly at least. In representing violence,
they externalize, distance, metaphorize, and
mediate it” ( Khor, 174).
Khor, Lena. Human Rights Discourse in a Global Network: Books Beyond Borders, 2013.
Textual Extract/s:
‘He was frightened’, Savi said.
‘To do what?’
‘Frightened to ask. Teacher permission to leave the room. And when
he leave the room he was frightened again. Frightened to use the
school WC.
[. . . ] Anand Cried.
‘He went back to the class room and Teacher ask him to leave.’
‘Well just then school was over and everybody walk behind Anand.
Everybody was laughing.’ (245)
(A House for Mr Biswas 1961)
Extract/s from the Texts:
Last year, while connecting an electric wire, he fell of a ladder and got
his right leg fractured then started his misfortunate days. Neither his
leg was cured nor he got the salary of last six months. Then he went
to labour court at the advice of the embassy. When he went to the
court, the ‘Syriyali’ owner not only beat him badly, but at night, also
physically assaulted him to near death (45).
(Diary of Desert 2011)
Extract/s from the Texts:
. . . It was the freshness of the body. It was still
someone. Usually the victims of a political killing were
found much later. She dipped each of the fingers in a
beaker of blue solution so she could check for cuts
and abrasions. (9)
Anil’s Ghost 2000
Why Are These Implications in Literature?
What difference, if any, can literature make through its
intervention in the realm of human rights (especially
when the cases are universal as depicted in South
Asian Migration and diasporta texts/settings)?
Double Bind? Or a Debate?!
In giving voice to suffering we can sometime
moderate it, even aestheticize. “When it is
transfigured, something of its horror is removed. This
alone does an injustice to the victim.” Indeed, giving
voice can also be the matter of taking voice. (Intd.8)
Dawes , James. That the World May Know (2007).
Telling the Stories OR Staying Silent in Respect?!
What are the consequences of respectful silence?
There are so many ways to hurt others when trying to
speak for them, so many and so unexpected. But is
doing nothing worse than risking something?
(Dawes, 9)
Impotence to Importance of Story Telling…
Much of the work on storytelling and human rights, has
focused on the impotence of representation. However, one of
the most important premises of contemporary human rights
work is that effective dissemination of information can change
the world. [ . . .] (9-10)
Dawes, James. “What Difference Does Storytelling Make?” (2007)
Countering all of these fears is the hope (recognizable
sometimes only as the shadow of hope) that literature
can, by expressing something true, participate in- or
at the very least, act in solidarity with – the work of
human rights . (Dawes , 218)
Roles that Academia, Social Sciences and Literature Can
Play for the Promotion of Human Rights:
The academic disciplines ought to work together not
only to diagnose problems, but also to improve the
human condition [ . . . ]. This objective can also be
achieved by gearing academic work toward the
realization of human rights in the real world. (xvii)
Frezzo, Mark. The Sociology of Human Rights (2015)
Bal, Mieke. Travelling Concepts in the Humanities. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1993. Print
Bhattarai, Devendra. The Diary of the Desert. Ratna Pustak Bhandar: Kathmandu, 2010.
Dawes, James. That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity. Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press,
macquillan, martin. ed. The narrative reader.London: Routlege, 2000.
Goldberg Elizabeth Swanson and Alexandra Schultheis Moor. Eds. Theoretical Perspectives on Human
Rights and Literature. London/NY: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Freeman, Michael. Human Rights:An Interdisciplinary Approach. 2nd ed.Cambridge: Ploity Press, 2011.
Frezzo, Mark. The Sociology of Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015. Print
Ishay, Micheine R. The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. Berkley: U
of California P,
Naipaul, V.S. A House for Mr Biswas. London: Picador, 2003.
Ondaatje, Michael . Anil’s Ghost . London: Bloomsbury, 2000.
Peerenboom, Randall, Carole J. Peterson and Albert H.Y. Chen. Eds. Human Rights In Asia.
Abingdon/London: Routledge, 2006.
Peters, Julia Stone. “ Literature, the Rights of Man, and Narratives of Atrocity: Historical Backgrounds
to the Culture of Testimony”. The Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. l7 :2 (201)3. Web. 28
Feb 2015.
Rajab. Atlantic Street. Kathmandu: Bibek Sirjanshil Prakashan, 2065. Print
Scahffer, Kay and Sidonie Smith. Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition. New
York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2004. Print.
Slaughter, Joseph R. Human Rights, Inc. The World Novel, Narrative Form and International Law. New
York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
Thank you !
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