“The Cultural Politics of Human Rights”: A Public Lecture by Kate Nash

Published: November 29, 2017

Kate Nash, Guest Professor at Stockholm University’s Department of Media Studies, gave a Public Lecture on 14 November, 2017. Organized and sponsored by the Leading Research Environment “Global Media Studies and the Politics of Mediated Communication” (Director: Miyase Christensen), the event addressed the need for a cultural politics of human rights.

Kate Nash lectures at the Dept. of Media Studies. Photo by Martin Karlsson

In her lecture, introduced by Associate Professor Anna Roosvall, Kate Nash situated the promise of human rights within the context of globalisation and what she termed the ongoing institutionalisation of cosmopolitan law, and discussed the role of mediated frames in the construction of a culture of human rights.

According to Nash, media is the most significant site of the cultural politics of human rights. Because representations of human rights in mainstream media are nationally framed, they compromise the way that the public learn about the issues reported, e.g. abuses and violations. Nash noted that a great deal of hope has been placed in digital media, considered to have the potential to transcend national frames in terms of delivering information and promoting participation, and wondered how justified this hope is in relation to realising human rights.

According to Nash, there are no technocratic, legal or digital fixes that will lead to the realisation of human rights, inasmuch as these rights are structured in such a way that they can never be fixed or determinate. On the contrary: they are always interpreted and contested. Given their inherently political nature, we need to consider human rights as a matter of cultural politics through which rights issues an be articulated and actively engaged with, rather than presuming that a culture of human rights, implying a set of processes is in place, exists.


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