Conference Information and Schedule

“Rights, the Human, and Literature in Early Modernity” is a conference exploring the pre-histories of human rights in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It takes as a point of departure recent scholarship opening up the history of human rights and seeing it in less deterministic ways—less centered on Enlightenment republicanism, less Western, less inevitably focused on civil and political rights at the expense of social and economic rights.

All panels are free and open to the public, but registration is strongly encouraged. Please register through our EventBrite page.

For more information, please contact Feisal Mohamed or Clare Carroll.


All panels held in Segal Theatre,CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., New York

28 April 2017

10:00-11:30, Opening Plenary

Eric Nelson (Harvard), “Liberalism and Theodicy”

Respondent: Joy Connolly (Graduate Center)


11:30-11:45, Coffee Break


11:45-1:00, Rights in Continental and Eastern traditions

Chair: Clare Carroll (Graduate Center)

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite (NYU), “The Right to Write Islam: Muslim Literati in Early Modern China”

Domna Stanton (Graduate Center), “‘Perpetual Peace,’ from Grotius to Kant: A Precursor to Human Rights?”

Christopher N. Warren (Carnegie Mellon), “Angels and Diplomats”


2:00-3:30, Rights in the early modern Atlantic world

Chair: Sarah A. Covington (Graduate Center)

Herman Bennett (Graduate Center), “Before the Human: Africans, Sovereigns, and Slaves”

Sarah Rivett (Princeton), “Natural Equality without Political Rights: Missionary Linguistics and the Limits of Universalism in Early America”

Sharon Achinstein (Johns Hopkins), “New World Behn: Languages of the Body and Questions of Humanity”


3:30-4:00, Coffee Break


4:00-5:30, Closing Plenary / Joseph A. Wittreich Lecture in Milton Studies

Mary Nyquist (Toronto), “Hobbes, Milton, and the Right of (Political) Resistance”

Respondent: John M. Archer (NYU)


5:30-6:30, Closing reception in History lounge (Room 5114)

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