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Victims' Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights$
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Diana Tietjens Meyers

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199930388

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199930388.001.0001

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Narrative Structures, Narratives of Abuse, and Human Rights

Narrative Structures, Narratives of Abuse, and Human Rights

Chapter:
(p.65) Chapter 2 Narrative Structures, Narratives of Abuse, and Human Rights
Source:
Victims' Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights
Author(s):

Diana Tietjens Meyers

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199930388.003.0003

Several prominent accounts of narrative build normativity into narration. So it might seem obvious that there is a connection between victims’ stories and moral insight. However, existing explications of the way in which values figure in narrative do not yield satisfactory theories of the contribution that victims’ stories can make to discovering and defending policies and practices that advance human rights. The account Anthony Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner present is unduly conservative. Hayden White’s account rests on an unduly narrow conception of moral closure. Elizabeth Spelman’s analysis of Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl suggests that White’s account can accommodate some victims’ stories. But his view excludes many others. An account of moral closure in these seemingly anomalous victims’ stories—e.g. stories told by survivors of the Rwanda genocide—and the link between these stories and human rights are defended.

Keywords:   narrative, moral closure, human rights, Anthony Amsterdam, Jerome Bruner, Hayden White, Elizabeth Spelman, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, slavery, Rwanda genocide

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