The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights provides a comprehensive, transnational, and interdisciplinary map to this emerging field, offering a broad overview of human rights and literature while providing innovative readings on key topics. The first of its kind, this volume covers essential issues and themes, necessarily crossing disciplines between the social sciences and humanities. Sections cover:

  • subjects, with pieces on subjectivity, humanity, identity, gender, universality, the particular, the body
  • forms, visiting the different ways human rights stories are crafted and formed via the literary, the visual, the performative, and the oral
  • contexts, tracing the development of the literature over time and in relation to specific regions and historical events
  • impacts, considering the power and limits of human rights literature, rhetoric, and visual culture

Drawn from many different global contexts, the essays offer an ideal introduction for those approaching the study of literature and human rights for the first time, looking for new insights and interdisciplinary perspectives, or interested in new directions for future scholarship.

Contributors: Chris Abani, Jonathan E. Abel, Elizabeth S. Anker, Arturo Arias, Ariella Azoulay, Ralph Bauer, Anna Bernard, Brenda Carr Vellino, Eleni Coundouriotis, James Dawes, Erik Doxtader, Marc D. Falkoff, Keith P. Feldman, Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg, Audrey J. Golden, Mark Goodale, Barbara Harlow, Wendy S. Hesford, Peter Hitchcock, David Holloway, Christine Hong, Madelaine Hron, Meg Jensen, Luz Angélica Kirschner, Susan Maslan, Julie Avril Minich, Alexandra Schultheis Moore, Greg Mullins, Laura T. Murphy, Hanna Musiol, Makau Mutua, Zoe Norridge, David Palumbo-Liu, Crystal Parikh, Katrina M. Powell, Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Mark Sanders, Karen-Magrethe Simonsen, Joseph R. Slaughter, Sharon Sliwinski, Sidonie Smith, Domna Stanton, Sarah G. Waisvisz, Belinda Walzer, Ban Wang, Julia Watson, Gillian Whitlock and Sarah Winter.

chapter |19 pages


Aporia and Affirmative Critique: Mapping the Landscape of Literary Approaches to Human Rights Research

part I|7 pages


chapter 1|10 pages

A New Universal for Human Rights?

The Particular, the Generalizable, the Political

chapter 2|9 pages

“Commonly Human”

Embodied Self-Possession and Human Rights in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother

chapter 3|7 pages

Who Is Human?

Disability, Literature, and Human Rights

chapter 4|7 pages

Queer Rights?

chapter 5|9 pages

Gendering Human Rights and Their Violation

A Reading of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee

chapter 6|9 pages

Contingent Vulnerabilities

Child Soldiers as Human Rights Subjects

chapter 7|8 pages

In Flight

The Refugee Experience and Human Rights Narrative

chapter 8|8 pages


chapter 9|8 pages

Remembering Perpetrators

The Kunstlerroman and Second-Generation Witnessing in Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker

part II|7 pages


chapter 10|17 pages

Vanishing Points

When Narrative Is Not Simply There

chapter 13|11 pages

Beyond the Trauma Aesthetic

The Cultural Work of Human Rights Witness Poetries

chapter 14|14 pages

Ending World War II

Visual Literacy Class in Human Rights

chapter 15|11 pages

Inventing Human Dignity

chapter 18|9 pages

Sorry Business

chapter 19|9 pages

From “Tutsi Crush” to “FWP”

Satire, Sentiment, and Rights in African Texts and Contexts

chapter 20|9 pages


Becoming Human on the Terrain of Visual Culture

chapter 21|10 pages

Fragmented Forms and Shifting Contexts

How Can Social Media Work for Human Rights?

chapter 22|9 pages

What about False Witnessing?

The Limits of Authenticity and Verification

part III|8 pages


chapter 24|11 pages

The “Rites of Discovery”

Law and Narrative in the Sixteenth-Century Atlantic World

chapter 26|10 pages

Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)

An Essay in Bibliography

chapter 27|10 pages

Localizing Human Rights

Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India and the Lacuna in International Justice

chapter 29|8 pages

Transition and Transformation

Human Rights and Ubuntu in Antjie Krog’s Writings after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

chapter 32|10 pages

Journeying into Rwanda

Placing Philip Gourevitch’s Account of Genocide within Literary, Postcolonial, and Human Rights Frameworks

chapter 33|10 pages

“Where is the World to save us from Torture?”

The Poets of Guantánamo

chapter 34|12 pages

Human Rights and Minority Rights

Argentine and German Perspectives

chapter 35|7 pages

States of Cynicism

Literature and Human Rights in Israel/Palestine

chapter 37|9 pages

Sites of Human Rights Theory

part IV|7 pages


chapter 38|9 pages

With Double-Binds to Spare

Assuming the Rhetorical Question of Human Rights Language as Such

chapter 39|13 pages

“Inverted Sympathy”

Empathy and Mediation in Literary Transactions of Human Rights

chapter 41|8 pages

The Right Time for Rhetoric

Normativity, Kairos, and Human Rights

chapter 42|9 pages

Values without Qualities

Pathos and Mythos in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

chapter 43|9 pages

Is the Age of Human Rights Over?

chapter 46|19 pages

Film After Atrocity

An Interview with Joshua Oppenheimer

chapter 47|8 pages

The Graceful Walk