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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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Bodily Integrity and Its Exclusions

Bodily Integrity and Its Exclusions

(p.15) Chapter One Bodily Integrity and Its Exclusions
Fictions of Dignity

Elizabeth S. Anker

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how human rights discourses and norms ostracize others—along with those lives seen to exemplify them—from the purview of full personhood. In particular, it explains how anxiety about the body finds its central expression in the dual myths of human dignity and bodily integrity. It considers one popular instantiation of human rights discourse—a genre known as the “human rights bestseller”—and how liberalism's aversion toward the body masks and condones concrete discrimination against raced, gendered, and otherwise disadvantaged populations. It argues that liberalism's reluctance about embodiment lurks behind many of the missed opportunities of human rights and explores how ambivalence toward embodiment that plagues liberal theories of selfhood and political practice comes to be reproduced within theoretical models for framing the troubled relationship between narrative literature and human rights.

Keywords:   human rights, personhood, human dignity, bodily integrity, human rights bestseller, liberalism, discrimination, embodiment, narrative literature, selfhood

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