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Fictions of DignityEmbodying Human Rights in World Literature$
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Elizabeth S. Anker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451362

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451362.001.0001

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Constructs by Which We Live

(p.1) Introduction
Fictions of Dignity

Elizabeth S. Anker

Cornell University Press

This book explores various failures of human rights and the prevailing theoretical orientations within postcolonial studies through what it calls an “embodied politics of reading.” In particular, it considers two paradoxes that trouble “liberal” articulations of human rights by reading four postcolonial novels, each of which variously censures liberalism's practiced vocabularies for eclipsing key facets of selfhood: Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981), Nawal El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero (1973), J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace (1999), and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things (1997). It shows that liberal human rights discourses and norms exhibit a profound ambivalence toward embodiment, underwritten by the dual fictions of human dignity and bodily integrity and negating core dimensions of embodied experience.

Keywords:   human rights, embodied politics of reading, postcolonial studies, novels, liberalism, selfhood, Salman Rushdie, embodiment, human dignity, bodily integrity

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