Keynote at The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2015

Conference Theme: “Human Rights, Justice, Media and Culture”
Thursday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31, 2015
Art Center of Kobe, Japan

Convergence or Collision – Human Rights with or without Cultural Studies

In the persistent (re)turn to questions of representational, identity-based, and political economic justice today, how will Cultural Studies make space for human rights as a global legal and humanitarian practice? Of late, the new and unremitting atrocities linked to state, inter-state, and private violence have precipitated new social movements that act in concert with international human rights law. To these movements, Cultural Studies has had little dialogic or institutional connections. In this address, Prof. John Erni considers the conditions of possibility for overcoming the apparent non-correspondence between critical cultural humanism and rights, or between culture and law. He outlines a critical model of analysis that on the one hand incorporates insights of postcolonial legal theorists and jurists from the Global South and important cultural theorists from the North, and on the other hand, fuses a critical combination of law, social movements, and modernity.This would entail a reconception of human rights and international public law – including the assumptions, institutions, geopolitical relations, and grounded practices of the rights discourse, as it is imagined politically and legally – in order to remap the ethico-political commitments of Cultural Studies from within a “rights imaginary.”