Being a Human Book: Conversations for Rupturing Prejudice
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Human rights activism often aims to disrupt discriminatory behaviours and attitudes. Situated within the wider context of the human rights culture, such activism is part of the consideration of what it means to be human. Richard Rorty contributes to this discussion via his theory of sentimental education. Activism, however, requires moving beyond discussion to particular responses. One way this can occur is by encouraging community members to gradually recognise the emergence of alternative ways of understanding themselves and their fellow community members. Paulo Freire named this, ‘conscientization.’ The dynamic nature of conscientization brings human rights activists into this experience, which ruptures discriminatory attitudes so that new attitudes may emerge. An example is found in “Human Books” who are persons who have experienced prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes and who volunteer to join the Human Library, a movement that seeks to bring persons who would not normally meet due to prejudice into conversations. These conversations aim to discontinue prejudice by rupturing long-held attitudes that result from lack of understanding of ‘the other.’ This promotes the emergence of respect between individuals. This chapter presents a case study of a group of Human Books and demonstrates how their experience drew them to encounter emergence, discontinuity and rupture.
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