Human Rights Workshop Series

2013–2014 Human Rights Graduate Workshops

Wednesdays (even weeks of the quarter): 5:00–6:30pm

John Hope Franklin Room, Social Science Room 224

1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 [map]

About the Workshop Series:

The recourse to Human Rights has become a defense against tyranny and the foundation for a multitude of actions to redress injustice and to effect peace.  Notwithstanding persistent and widely held doubts about the legitimacy and practicability of Human Rights, they have become significant tools both of change and of reconciliation.  Human Rights have turned into a rich and diverse international “institution” which even the worst abusers acknowledge.  At the beginning of the 21st Century, the issue  nature and the reach of Human Rights regimes has emerged as one of the foremost controversies in debates on the future of international order and, indeed, on the survivability of the global community.

In this context, this year’s Human Rights Workshop Series will take on the issue of humanitarianism and its relation to human rights.  Humanitarian initiatives and humanitarian mobilizations have never been as prominent as in the past forty years.  By the same token, contemporary humanitarianism has come under sharp attack from disparate quarters – as imperialist, as hopelessly inefficient, and as plain reactionary.  And yet, humanitarian practice flourishes and, as social work, has gained political prominence in the resurgence of religious movements and their politicization.  More importantly, the crisis of humanitarianism as idea and practice is but the consequence of actual humanitarian crises that have overwhelmed individual states, entire regions, and the international community. 

It is this syndrome – a flourishing and culturally diverse humanitarianism, a deep distrust in the humanitarian idea and practice, and the proliferation of humanitarian crises – that we hope to explore in the present and in the past.  For while social scientists, anthropologists, and humanitarian aid professionals may be inclined to think of this syndrome as a condition of the present, historians and literary scholars are keenly aware that the dilemma of “doing good” or, if you wish, of “care” and the “love of the world” have accompanied humanitarianism all along and in most every part of the world.

The workshop sessions will include common readings, graduate student presentations, and guest presenters on the theme of humanitarianism.  We welcome ongoing suggestions for papers, texts, and visitors and will accommodate requests as the schedule allows. 

For questions or to request papers, please contact:

Dongyoung Kim
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology
Human Rights Workshop Co-Coordinator                                                         

Emma Stone Mackinnon
PhD Student, Department of Political Science
Human Rights Workshop Co-Coordinator                                                    

Fall Quarter

November 6

Introductory and Collective Reading Session

  1. Fassin, Didier. "Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life." Public Culture 19, no. 3 (2007): 499-520.
  2. Calhoun, Craig. "The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Globa (Dis)Order." In Contemporary States of Emergency : The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions, edited by Didier Fassin and Mariella Pandolfi. 29-58. New York; Cambridge, Mass.: Zone Books; Distributed by the MIT Press, 2010.


November 20

Seeking Enlightenment Above, Saving Those Below: Emerging Discourses and Practices of Buddhist Social Work in Japan, 1895-1915

Presenter: Cameron Penwell, PhD Candidate in History, University of Chicago


Winter Quarter

January 15

Human Rights as Political Practice: Reading Charles Beitz Against Himself

Presenter: Emma Mackinnon, PhD Student in Political Science, University of Chicago


January 29

Colonialism and Global Distributive Justice: A Reading of Pogge's Global Resources Dividend

Presenter: Tejas Parasher, PhD Student in Political Science, University of Chicago


February 5

The Juridical Epigenesis of Reason: Life, Second-personal Dignity, and Human Rights

*A joint session with Practical Philosophy workshop

Presenter:  Ariel Zylberman, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto


February 12

The Politics of Opposing Torture: Amnesty International's First Special Campaign, 1972-1974

Presenter: Barbara Keys, Department of History, University of Melbourne

Discussant: Michael Geyer, Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History


February 26

The Novel of Human Rights

Presenter: James Dawes, Professor of English and Director of the Program in Human Rights and Humanitarianism, Macalester College


Spring Quarter

April 2

The Endtimes of Human Rights

Presenter: Stephen Hopgood, Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Oriental and African Studies

Discussant: Mark Philip Bradley, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Professor of International History and the College


April 9

Economic Rights as Human Rights: Korean People's Protests for Democracy in the Late 1970s

Presenter: Ingu Hwang, PhD Candidate in History, University of Chicago


April 25-26

Conference: Humanitarianism in Crisis/Crisis of Humanitarianism


May 7

Emergencies and their Sympathy-scapes: HIV/AIDS and Sex Trafficking in Hyderabad, India

Presenter: Kimberly Walters, PhD Candidate in Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago


May 21

From Spanish Earth to the United Nations: Archibald MacLeish and the Cultural Politics of Human Rights

Presenter: Hadji Bakara, PhD Candidate in English, University of Chicago