Humor and Human Rights

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Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 Noon
Room: SEM II A-3107

Session Description:

Seriously? Is there a place for humor when we speak of human rights? Is there a place for lightheartedness in the face of atrocity?

Jane Korman sparked controversy in 2010 when she posted on YouTube a video of her father, Adolek Kohn, dancing with his grandchildren at Auschwitz, Dachau, and the Lodz ghetto (no captions available). Adolek Kohn survived the Holocaust; half a century later the family returned to Poland to dance to Gloria Gaynor's disco hit "I Will Survive"). Some view the dance as a triumph, while others find it tasteless or worse.

This seminar will consider the conditions under which comedy and humor might have a role to play in the way we think about human rights. This counterintuitive approach should help us locate the limits of how "human rights" function as a legal concept, a moral language, and a cultural practice. We will watch a short film, discuss it, and explore how the language of human rights does or does not help us make sense of ethics, politics, and justice.

Facilitator Biographies:

Greg Mullins

Greg Mullins, Member of the Faculty: Greg is a Member of the Faculty at The Evergreen State College, where he teaches comparative literature, American Studies, and human rights. His work centers on the cultural practices of human rights, and on literary engagements with the cultural politics of rights. He is the author of Colonial Affairs, a study of colonialism and sexuality in American expatriate literature. Recipient of a Fulbright grant (Brazil, 2003), he has published essays on literature, sexual rights, and human rights in several Brazilian journals, as well as in scholarly books and journals in the United States.

Alice A. Nelson

Alice A. Nelson, Member of the Faculty: A member of Evergreen's faculty since 1992, Alice A. Nelson teaches Latin American cultural studies, Spanish, and feminist/postcolonial studies. She is the author of Political Bodies: Gender, History, and the Struggle for Narrative Power in Recent Chilean Literature; co-translator, with Silvia Tandeciarz, of Nelly Richard's Masculine/Feminine and The Insubordination of Signs; and a contributor to Bilbija and Payne's recent collection Accounting for Violence: Marketing Memory in Latin America, among other publications. She is also a member of Bridges Not Walls, an immigrant ally group in Thurston and Mason Counties.

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