The “human rights regime” (HRR) is the name given to the various socio-legal institutions that define and export legal norms in service of protecting and promoting the rights of marginalized groups. Although there exist protocols and constitutions that specify when, how, and in what way states should act in response to humanitarian crisis, the mobilization of such efforts are seen as dependent on public will. It is the task of NGOs, IGOs, and government agencies invested in the HRR to activate this political will. The predominate tool for gathering political will is the “awareness campaign.” Images and videos, usually graphic or upsetting in some way, circulate in interconnected political discourses through social media. The logic behind such campaigns supposes that by revealing the conditions of crisis to political subjects they will be motivated to resolve the crisis. However, history has shown us that such campaigns are often ineffective at best; at worst they only serve to exacerbate violence and marginalization. Despite growing evidence that awareness does not guarantee intervention, activists have not generated alternatives to these campaigns. Critical pedagogy is similarly interested in revealing the conditions of oppression that undergird social systems. Further, critical pedagogy has been subjected to similar problems and failures. Both institutions have failed to compose a discourse that generates “matrices” for political action (Freire, 160).
In this paper, I will explore how awareness campaigns and other forms of human rights education operate as a critical pedagogy. Drawing on the work of Paulo Freire, post-process theory, and the emerging field of “sensational jurisprudence,” I want to imagine the conditions and features of an effective dialogic space surrounding human rights. In the composition classroom, I want to explore the efficacy and demands of “collaborative learning” and “service-learning” projects. Specifically, I am interested to see if these courses are capable of producing student-texts that indicate critical, self-reflexive engagement with political ideologies. Further, I hope to show how the axiology used by instructors in these courses can be used to evaluate and improve awareness campaigns.
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