Durham, NC – Human rights fires the imaginations of peoples around the world struggling for greater political, social and cultural space. But the phrase escapes a one-fits-all definition. Activists constantly reinterpret and re-imagine what constitutes inalienable rights, who can claim them and how they can best be framed and fought for.
From the Middle East to Burma, Chile and even New York’s Zucotti Park, people use this phrase to rally support and mount campaigns for goals as diverse as democracy, access to education and campaigns against domestic violence and for self-determination. Yet elsewhere, the international community and its rights institutions do little to stem atrocities, including in places like Syria.
“Eventually, the cause of human rights requires action from all levels of society: Popes, presidents, prime minsters and international bodies like the United Nations,” says Prof. William Chafe, the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, Emeritus, and DHRC@FHI Faculty Co-Director. “But in the end, these ‘leaders’ respond only when citizens at the grass roots — democratic insurgents, if you will — rise up to demand their freedom, their right to a decent life. Studying that process is what we’re all about at the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI.”
Funded by a Humanities Writ Large grant, supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute is examining what it means to study human rights at the university level in a new project titled RightsConnect. In 2013-2014, RightsConnect will host a series of lectures and workshops on rights teaching and practice, with noted outside faculty and practitioners who face real world challenges to rights campaigns.
In February, Prof. James Dawes, who helped start the Human Rights and Humanitarianism concentration at Macalester College, talked about the role of human rights as a frame for critical thinking and engagement with world events. Dawes’s talk is available at this link.
The DHRC@FHI is also creating new classes that could lead to a future course of study for undergraduates interested in exploring human rights as a focus of their education. Currently, faculty members are leading two DukeImmerse courses, one with including a visit to South Africa and another with site visits in North Carolina and Chile, to look at social justice and indigenous issues.
The DHRC@FHI will be exploring rights and injustice in the United States as well as new efforts to look at the environment through a rights framework. The DHRC@FHI is partnering with the Nicholas School to look at issues like climate change through the lens of human rights.
“Human rights are important because they represent both a robust practice shaping world events and a fertile area of study, theory and research that Duke has unique resources to explore,” says DHRC@FHI Faculty Co-Director Robin Kirk.
Our next event is Oct. 31 with Prof. Michael Geyer, a historian who directs the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago, speaking on “Human Rights Education After Human Rights Idolatry” at 4 pm in the Smith Warehouse Garage. Free and open to the public.
For more information please contact Emily Stewart, email@example.com.