Drawing (Upon) Human Rights: Reading the Illustrated Version of the UDHR

  • Pramod K Nayar University of Hyderabad
Keywords: UDHR, Figurative Realism, Discourse, Human Rights


This essay examines the illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The use of stick-figures, it argues, is a verbal-visual discourse that performs the human subject as an anonymous yet identifiably human person. Emphasising the constructed nature of the human, the combination of text and image functions as an instance of ‗expository discourse‘. In the second section of the essay I propose that the UDHR‘s illustrated version uses the aesthetics of ‗figurative realism‘ wherein the representation of the human person as a stick means that we see a figure who stands in for the person. It concludes by arguing that these minimalist representations signal the UDHR‘s foundational nature rather than its simplicity. The UDHR‘s reliance on the drawn line forces attention to the process, the mechanics by which we make human persons, or unmake them.


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