Theses Master's

Socially Engaged Art and Human Rights: a Critique of Legalism

Porter, Dakota

This paper examines the ways in which legalism in human rights work is limited. Building on this assertion, with the support of various scholars, the paper explores one non legal human rights methodology—socially engaged art—to expand on alternatives to human rights legalism. Through an engagement with political theory, sociological scholarship, and critical art theory, several questions are raised: 1) How is legalism in human rights inadequate or limited? And 2) In what ways can socially engaged art challenge human rights legalism and offer a supplement to legalistic human rights work? In an effort to understand the limitations of human rights legalism, and the radical potential of non legal human rights projects, four socially engaged art case studies are analyzed: Gramsci Monument by Thomas Hirschhorn, Flint Fit by Mel Chin and Tracy Reese, School of Panamerican Unrest by Pablo Helguera, and Good Fences Make Good Neighbors by Ai Weiwei. Each study reveals new ways of understanding human rights subjectivities, the politicizing capacity of collective participation, and the unique possibilities for human rights futures which are offered by non legal projects.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Ivy, Marilyn J.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2019