A cultural and rhetoric analysis of internationalized human rights discourse

Karen Ruth Dwyer, Purdue University


The purpose of the present study is to theorize oppositional discourse that has not yet been conceptualized within existing composition studies. The study examines the discourse of Amnesty International, a prestigious human rights organization drawing its mandate from the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International delineates and defines human rights, providing forums in which victims and witnesses may speak and be heard, creating international discourse publics, constructing a human rights activist subject position, and developing other techniques and strategies by which to work. This study investigates: (1) the ways oppositionality of human rights and human rights discourse originated and developed; (2) the reasons and ways human rights and its discourse have become internationalized; (3) the methods by which the activist subject position has been constructed; and (4) the ways in which human rights limitations are revealed in discourse. The contemporary version of human rights that has been internationalized was engendered by the Western market capitalist economic system as a result of the rise of the nation state. I argue here that human rights is a contemporary phenomenon that arises from an historically specific set of material and social conditions and that the contemporary signifying practices that make human rights possible construct human rights as a way of knowing and interpreting human experience. ^




Major Professor: Janice M. Lauer, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition

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