Theses Master's

Human Rights and Art Activism: The US-Mexico Border

Seyal, Mira

At the US-Mexico border, migrants have been fleeing a world of increasing violence, only to arrive at another one. Art-activism addresses the human rights of migrants against the growing tide of public hostility to the protection of Central American refugees and asylum seekers. This study involved interviews with eleven visual, media, and performance artists over a two-month period, in order to answer the question: How does art activism on the US-Mexico border contribute to the field of human rights? The findings are broken up into four chapters: 1. How art promotes human rights 2. Art as a critique to human rights 3. Problems with art as a tool of human rights 4. Art as it grows human rights. Despite the fact that art as a tool of human rights has its limitations, art activists play a central role in articulating and amplifying the stories of rightsholders and thus impacting public consciousness. An emerging segment of human rights literature has critiqued the field for becoming increasingly obsolete in the context of shifting paradigms and power structures. While the human rights movement has been held as a beacon, it was not born in a power vacuum and was in fact, largely shaped by cold war tensions and the Western desire for “democracy promotion” abroad. If human rights are to remain relevant in the 21st century, the field itself must find room for growth – both ideological and structural. As such, this study looks through art activism as one avenue in which the field may be able to do just that.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Almiron, Johanna F.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 25, 2020