Thursday, August 4th

Lynn Hunt’s lecture dealt with questions regarding why the history of human dignity / human rights matters. According to Lynn, the eighteenth century was a crucial time for the emergence of human rights. This time period generated new cultural attitudes that eventually fostered a new conceptualization of personhood. The new conceptualization of personhood – based on the (equal) moral worth inherent in all human beings – preceded legislation that eventually abolished torture and slavery. Revulsion in the face of the pain of others, Lynn asserts, was not ‘natural’; it was an attitude that was learned.
Lynn HuntAnna Konik and the fellows engaged in a discussion on the effects of presenting stories that were first told by refugee woman, and then re-told by local women – the idea underpinning Anna Konik’s most recent visual installation entitled “In the same city – under the same sky.” Anna´s artwork explores how the creation and bridging of distance affects the refugee women, the women re-telling the stories, the people listening to the stories, and society at large.

Lauren Ware’s presentation concentrated on if and why “negative” or “painful” emotions (in particular, fear and suffering) play a role when a situation is assessed from the perspective of human dignity. She examined certain fears as a basis for making a claim in the name of human dignity. The first of Lauren´s examples related to political arguments for the introduction of an unconditional basic (citizens’) income, the second to criminal punishment that has little emotional effect on some, but causes tremendous emotional suffering for others.​

Through an exploration of visual images, Levi Cooper discussed Napoleonic artwork portraying Freedom of Worship, particularly as it applied to Jews. Methodologically, Levi argued for interrogating visual representations when researching legal history and the history of human rights. Challenging the conception rendered in Napoleonic prints and numismatics as merely ​portraying freedom of religion, Levi suggested that ​the artwork ​could be understood as an attempt to fashion a narrative of legality. In a lively discussion, he guided fellows to see that part of ​the visual experience included ​Napoleon's desire to be perceived as a lawgiver.