Human Rights Initiative
The Human Rights Initiative is a joint effort of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to support interdisciplinary engaged research and teaching in the field of human rights with a goal of strengthening practice and the profession overall. The Initiative arises out of years of collaborative and engaged research by faculty who work and teach on topics related to human rights.
The Human Rights Initiative receives recurring funds from the Provost's office to support grants of up to $50,000 for faculty-led interdisciplinary human rights research. Led by a group of senior faculty, the Human Rights Initiative Research Fund provides direct research funding to University of Minnesota faculty to carry out human rights projects; to learn more about future funding cycles please visit this page.
In 2018 the Human Rights Initiative made five grants to following projects:
Human Rights in Islamic Law: Understanding Islamic Jurists' Perceptions of Human Rights
Hassan Abdel Salam (Sociology)
Throughout the world, Islamic jurists and clerics are engaging in conversations about the compatibility of human rights and Islamic law. Yet the media and academic scholarship often discuss Islamic law and human rights as being in opposition. This perception may be partly due to the fact that the fatwas (Islamic legal rulings) of most Islamic jurists do not explicitly invoke human rights. Professor Abdel Salam will systematically interview Islamic jurists and clerics living in the United States on a variety of human rights questions. This study will guide human rights scholars, activists, and decision makers in their conceptualization and implementation of human rights in Muslim societies.
A Contested Home: Memory, Commemoration and Rights around Forced Migration of Palestinians in the Galilee
Sonja Kuftinec (Theater Arts and Dance) and Avigail Manneberg (Art)
This project uses artistic representation to engage with issues of forced migration and displacement. It explores how visual and theatrical storytelling can redress historical amnesia by seeking to foster dialogue between two groups who have a long and contentious history, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and Jewish Israelis. Professors Kuftinec and Manneberg will work with eight local artists to develop an interdisciplinary body of work culminating in an exhibition and public art installation.
Retooling U.S.-Based Human Rights Work for the Populist Era
Howard Lavine (Political Science) and James Ron (Public Affairs)
Professors Lavine and Ron are partnering with the leading human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), to develop and conduct a nationally representative survey that will probe U.S. public opinion on human rights principles, policies and organizations. The survey will oversample conservative voters and feature a number of framing experiments to probe the sort of appeals, and source cues, that might sway this population. This data will feed directly into the advocacy and research of both HRW and CVT, and will help both organizations more vigorously defend human rights in this uncertain time.
Animating Children's Views: Implementing Article 12 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Using Innovative Survey Methods
Deborah Levison (Public Affairs) and Frances Vavrus (Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development)
Children have the right to be heard on matters that concern them, yet their voices are often marginalized in research. Professors Levison and Vavrus aim to change that through this project, in which they are developing a human rights-based survey methodology specifically for use with children. The focus of the research for this pilot project will be on human rights in relation to children’s education and work/chores. This new tool will allow researchers to include the voices of children in large-scale household surveys, which will in turn have a significant effect on human rights policy and programming.
Mnemonic Struggles over the Gravest Human Rights Violations: The Armenian Genocide in Griswold v. Driscoll and beyond
Joachim Savelsberg (Sociology) and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Law)
This project will look at struggles over denial of genocide and the role of law in regulating, remembering, and preventing genocide. Based on the understanding that genocide denial causes pain for survivors and enhances the risk of future occurrences, this project will analyze a Massachusetts court case which related to teaching guidelines concerning the Armenian genocide. Professors Savelsberg and Ní Aoláin seek to explain the legal case and the consequences this case has for teaching the history of the Armenian genocide. This project will add to a series of case studies on particularly significant human rights trials and will become an essential part of a book addressing struggles over the acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide.