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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:54787
Doc. No:TL24741
Call number:‭NR11630‬
Main Entry:Sharon Sliwinski
Title & Author:Visualizing human rights: Photography, atrocity, and the ethical imaginationSharon Sliwinski
College:York University (Canada)
Date:2005
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2005
Page No:239
Abstract:Photography has been integral to the conceptualization of human rights. Human rights are envisaged through the experience of regarding photographs, in particular, photographs of atrocity. Photographic mediation is important to the recognition of atrocity because psychoanalysis has shown that traumatic events contain a paradox of seeing: the psyche is unable to grasp such events as they occur. Given this dilemma, the photograph's ability to arrest a historical moment is important because it provides a spectator the means for recognition of the traumatic event afterwards. Indeed, the recognition of another's suffering as atrocious and unjust may require aesthetic mediation. A paradox haunts this recognition, however, because to encounter an image of atrocity is precisely to encounter the loss of human dignity. Human rights are irrevocably shadowed by their failure. Hannah Arendt's late work, Freudian psychoanalysis, and two case studies support the central claim. The first case study investigates the Congo Reform Association (1904-1913), the first international human rights movement to use atrocity photographs as a campaign tool. The CRA enticed its generation by providing spectators with the illusion of distant intervention, setting into motion the ideal of universal human rights. In this initial engagement, reformers constructed human rights as a dream, that is, as a wishful discourse in which all humans possessed an inalienable dignity. This dream has been unconsciously carried into current conceptions of human rights. My second case study examines representations of the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990's, where humanitarian intervention was again demanded based on photographic evidence of atrocity. As in the Congo, no intervention arrived and here apathy in the face of atrocity can be understood as a residue of the traumatic impact of genocidal violence. The dissertation finds that although photographs fail to enact intervention in any efficacious, political sense, they do provide important occasions to work through social breakdown: rather than a call for action, images of atrocity provide occasion to exercise the faculties of judgement and thought. Such poignant response to the loss of human dignity offers an alternate definition of ethical responsibility, and in turn, an alternate basis for human rights.
Subject:Philosophy, religion and theology; Atrocity; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Congo Reform Association; Ethical imagination; Human rights; Photography; Rwanda; Visualizing; Philosophy; 0422:Philosophy
Added Entry:York University (Canada)