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Human Rights, Testimony, and Transnational Publicity by Meg McLagan

In order to help create the transnational public sphere they envisioned, international human rights activists deployed a number of strategies, among them the production and circulation of testimonies by victims of rights abuses. Testimonies are first person narratives in which an individual’s account of bodily suffering at the hands of oppressive governments or other agents come to stand for the oppression of a group. Rooted in dual Christian notions of witnessing and the body as the vehicle of suffering, testimony is a deeply persuasive cultural form that animates and moves western sensibilities. Although testimony has long played an important part in rights advocacy (dating back to abolitionism), its use grew in the 1990s and testimonies proliferated in multiple genres and arenas, from written texts to film and video documentaries to ‘live’ performances/face-to-face encounters in activist meetings, NGO forums and governmental hearings. My essay explores this phenomenon, focusing on the role of several mediated forms of testimony, e.g. ‘cine testimonials’ (testimony on film/video) and testimony online, in activist attempts to construct a transnational public.”

Human Rights, Testimony, And Transnational Publicity By Meg McLagan
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