States of Exception: Children’s Human Rights and the Humanities

Wendy S. Hesford

States of Exception event

This year’s McIntyre lecturer, Wendy S. Hesford, integrates critical legal studies and feminist rhetorical criticism to examine the figure of the child as a limit condition to the liberal subject of human rights law. Through her analysis of contemporary representations of children living in varied states of political exception and social exclusion—stateless children, children born to illegal immigrants, children born of wartime rape—she demonstrates how these limit conditions challenge the norms and power relations that produce, and ultimately, govern children as subjects of human rights. Reassessing humanities-based approaches to human rights, she calls for the development of a critical ethos based on an awareness of the historical contingencies and rhetorical exigencies of ethical responsibility.

Wendy S. Hesford is Professor of English at Ohio State University and affiliate faculty of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is the author of Framing Identities: Autobiography and the Politics of Pedagogy and Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms; co-editor with Wendy Kozol of two collections, Haunting Violations: Feminist Criticism and the Crisis of the “Real” and Just Advocacy? Women’s Human Rights, Transnational Feminisms, and the Politics of Representation. She has published in a range of journals, including PMLA, Biography, College English, Humanity, Journal of Human Rights, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and TDR: Journal of Performance Studies.