AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: "NORTH ATLANTIC UNIVERSALS" AND COLONIAL HISTORICAL PARTICULARS: GLOBAL COMMODITIES THROUGH THE LENS OF HUMAN RIGHTS REPRESENTATION
Author: SAMUEL MARTINEZ (University of Connecticut-Storrs)   
Date/Time: Sat., 3:00 PM
Co-Author(s): SAMUEL MARTINEZ (University of Connecticut-Storrs) 
Abstract: Among the “family of words” that Michel-Rolph Trouillot has labeled “North Atlantic universals,” perhaps none exemplifies more clearly than “human rights” how the aura of timeless uniformity of “the universal” depends upon a radical diachronic foreshortening of perspective on the West’s relations with the formerly-colonized world. Constructs of “the savage” and savagery’s antithesis, morally enlightened heroism, constitute a conceptual opposition that is sustained through an erasure of prior histories of European and Euro-American involvement in the creation of the very systems of oppression being “exposed” in documentary film and photo-essay genres. In my viewing of recent video documentaries and photo-essays which draw attention to violent abuses involved in the production of global commodities, I draw attention to representations that execute this conceptual sleight of hand, concealing past violent Western colonial and neo-colonial re-shapings of non-Western social orders and foregrounding post-colonial violence and squalor. Drawing inspiration from Trouillot’s call for an anthropology that persistently highlights its situatedness in global history, I reach for a distinctively anthropological perspective on recent human rights video documentaries and photo-essays not as an earlier generation of anthropologists might, by relativizing the domain of “human rights” across synchronic cultural space, but by relativizing “distance” itself on historical grounds.

Program Number: 4-0750
Session Title: HISTORY, MEMORY, GLOBALIZATION: IN HONOR OF MICHEL-ROLPH TROUILLOT
Session Sponsor: American Ethnological Society
Session Date/Time: Sat., 1:45 PM-5:30 PM
Organizer(s): RICHARD PRICE (College of William & Mary), BRACKETTE WILLIAMS (University of Arizona) 
Chair(s): RICHARD PRICE (College of William & Mary)  
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