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A New Law on Earth’: Humanity’s Journey from Science to Science Fiction in the Wake of World War

Priscilla Wald, Duke University

November 12, 2019 · 12:00 pm-1:30 pm · A71 Simpson International Building

Program in American Studies

Human. Humanity. Those words have talismanic significance in the current moment, as we turn to them to understand — and address — crises from the resurgence of militant nationalisms to the problem of climate change. This talk returns to the mid-20th- century moment with the emergence of the phrase “human rights” to understand the contemporary power of these words and the world view they signaled. While interest in that phrase typically focuses on the concept of rights it advanced, I attend to the word “human,” as it circulated through legal and political philosophy, science, and science fiction, becoming the watchword of powerful narratives of apocalyptic terror and hopeful internationalism. The impact of those narratives into the contemporary moment is the subject of this talk.

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