Human Rights Advocacy through Representations of Pleasure

PhD thesis defence Rakhshan Rizwan on Kashmiri life narratives


On 9 November Rakhshan Rizwan (Comparative Literature) will defend her PhD thesis Kashmiri Life Narratives: Human Rights Advocacy through Representations of Pleasure

The territory of Jammu and Kashmir is a contested space that is divided into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and a Pakistan-administered ‘Azad’ Kashmir. It continues to function as a flashpoint between India and Pakistan to the present-day. This ongoing conflict has its origins in the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and the subsequent emergence of two independent nation-states, India and Pakistan. The discourse on Kashmir has mostly been dominated by Indian and Pakistani national narratives but since 2008, Kashmiri writers and public intellectuals have positioned themselves as equal opinion-makers in the conflict through the composition of life narratives. 

Kashmiri narratives and human rights

This dissertation focuses on narratives that are set in the disputed territory of Kashmir and/or have been composed by authors of both Kashmiri and Indian origin. Although Anglophone texts from Kashmir have been analyzed in journalistic writing and scholarly monographs in the past, this is the first study to exclusively and primarily focus on Kashmiri writing and to attempt to develop a theoretical framework within which this writing can be studied and analyzed. It is also the only analysis of Kashmiri narratives as texts operating in human rights frameworks and engaging in human rights claim-making. This work aims to shift normative scholarly theorizations of “human rights literature” or, more generally, narratives that can function in the field of rights. The narratives discussed in this thesis support the case for expanding the generic limits of stories that can be used to write rights. In all the texts treated in this work, human rights abuses are represented as dramatic interruptions in the everyday routines and joyful pursuits of their subjects, rather than only as de-contextualized acts of physical cruelty and torture. 

main conclusions

This work demonstrates that human rights can be articulated and advocated for using a pleasurecentric model of advocacy in which memories and representations of happiness are kept paramount. It supports expanding the definition of stories that can function in human rights frameworks and qualify as “human rights literature.”  

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht, Domplein, University Hall
PhD candidate
Rakhshan Rizwan
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Ann Rigney
Dr Barnita Bagchi