This rebook-coversearch programme examines human rights struggles and issues (broadly and critically understood) in Asia and the Asian Diaspora through literature and other forms of creative expression (egs. novels, short stories, poetry, plays, films, visual arts, and performance). The broad aim is to look at literatures as vehicles for contextualizing human rights norms and issues in Asia and Asian Diaspora. Conversely, just as we wanted to explore how literature can deepen our understanding of human rights issues, we wanted to consider how a focus on human rights can be used to expand our appreciation of certain literary works.

The programme formed as an interdisciplinary York Seminar for Advanced Research. The seminar series participants met for regular seminars that brought together scholars from the southern Ontario region and guest speakers from further afield, to discuss readings and creative works of relevance as well as draft papers and presentations from scholars, writers, and artists. A list of the seminars is available here. The series was supported by Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation and the York Centre for Asian Research.

The seminar series was followed by a research workshop, Human Rights and the Arts: Perspectives from Global Asia, which was held at York University on 11-12 May 2012. It explored debates about the subjects and contexts of human rights by examining creative “texts” from global Asia. The workshop was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the York Centre for Asian Research.

The longer-term aim of the research programme is to publish a collection of scholarly articles and an anthology of literature and other forms of creative expression that includes works not previously published in English. This was realized in 2014 when Lexington Press published the two collections: Human Rights and the Arts: Essays on Global Asia, a volume of critical essays edited by Susan J. Henders and Lily Cho, and the accompanying anthology, Human Rights and the Arts in Global Asia: An Anthology, edited by Theodore W. Goossen and Anindo Hazra.

The research programme was organized by Susan J. Henders (Political Science) and Theodore W. Goossen (Humanities).

Researchers participating in the research programme include:

Lily Cho, Department of English, York University
Afsan Chowdhury, University of Dhaka
Anindo Hazra, Doctoral Candidate, Department of English, York University
Sailaja Krishnamurti, Department of Religious Studies, Saint Mary’s University
Arun Mukherjee, Department of English, York University
Van Nguyen-Marshall, Department of History, Trent University
Jooyeon Rhee, Department of East Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Arun Nedra Rodrigo, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Humanities. York University
Alicia Turner, Department of Humanities, York University
Mary Young, External Research Associate, York Centre for Asian Research

For more information, please contact Susan Henders ( or Theodore Goossen (