Human Rights, liberalism’s most potent aphrodisiac, is an inescapable concern for many of us in the academy, despite our critical consciousness about the cruelly liberal genealogy of its idea and practice. For us human rights remains, to invoke Gayatri Spivak: “that which we cannot not want.” This consciousness has constituted each of us (and our subterranean others) as ‘desiring’ nationalist, heterosexual and entrepreneurial subjects to whom liberalism offers means like the market, secularism, merit, multiculturalism – and of course Human Rights Law – as remedies for inequality, subordination, exclusion and annihilation.

How then do we engage the law, without falling into the trap of liberalism? Can we afford to completely disengage with liberal rights? At what cost do we move beyond the legalese of human rights? Does speaking the liberal language operate as a strategy for people’s movements, or is it a co-option of it? And as Wendy Brown enquires: “how might the paradoxical elements of the struggle for rights in an emancipatory context articulate a field of justice beyond “that which we cannot not want”?” One way to articulate a field of justice beyond “that which we cannot not want” is to document practices and performances of protest – as Resistance, Solidarity and Insurgency – in the postcolony that are deeply committed to talking ‘Human Rights’ but beyond and without the disciplined captivity of law, modernity and markets.

Discussions at this workshop would aim at displacing the centrality of the law in giving meaning to ideas of justice and its liberal vicissitudes and to chart the limits of the legal archive. The ‘beyond’ metaphor is not a disengagement with the law, but one which allows us to delimit law’s habitus. This workshop chooses to focus on the materiality of subaltern protests by travelling through various forms of re/presentations of peoples, spaces, their resistances and acts of solidarity and insurgency in the postcolony that don’t require the law’s scaffolding to erect its articulation of rights.

The workshop hopes to draw on the diversity of experiences of its participants to engage in a “counter-topographic” mapping of protest practices by ‘old’ and ‘new’ subalterns, particularly across certain locations in the conventional North, the Antipodes, Latin Americas, Africa and South and South East Asia. Along with being a project in building transnational solidarity through activist scholarship, it will also build an archive of images/ representations of performances of protest to put theory under the scanner of “small voice[s] of history”.
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