Inter-State, Inter-Institutional and Interdisciplinary HRRC Working Groups

The four thematic working groups, composed ideally of an equal number of participants from Connecticut and Baden-Württemberg, are the conceptual core of the Human Rights Research Consortium. The foci of the four groups are key human rights-issues of our time. The working groups meet independently throughout the academic year (2-3 times per semester) and have annual in-person workshops. The scholarly exchange is designed to lead to a variety of common activities and projects (publications, conference panels, policy recommendations; press releases, educational activities, archive etc.).

The working language in these groups is English.

The working groups’ objective is scholarly exchange in a supportive, intellectually rich and diverse, and productive atmosphere. Groups will provide an opportunity to engage with colleagues and approaches from different disciplines, scholarly traditions, and cultural backgrounds.

Human Rights, Science and Technology

Co-Chairs: Molly Land (School of Law, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut), Silja Vöneky (Institute for Public Law, University of Freiburg, Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies)

This working group will address questions concerning the governance of scientific and technological innovations (esp. Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology) and human rights law. States are obligated under human rights law to respect, protect, and fulfill rights. What does the obligation to fulfill look like with respect to technological innovation? What does it mean when individuals must ensure their own digital security but lack access to appropriate expertise and affordable, easy-to-use tools for doing so? Technology is also challenging human rights law in the area of non-state actors. Should human rights law regulate the companies that create and build technologies and, if so, how? What obligations might human rights law impose on companies that not only affect rights themselves, but also serve as the gatekeepers for expressive activity that violates the rights of others? The group will meet virtually once or twice a semester to read and discuss a work relevant to these questions and thereby promote opportunities for research, collaboration, and exchange.

Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights

Co-Chairs: Niels Weidtmann (Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies, University of Tübingen), Christopher Gohl (Weltethos Institut, University of Tübingen), Katharina von Hammerstein (German Studies, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut)

This working group will address claims of universality in relation to human rights, among other topics. Presuppositions of the equality of all humans in terms of a substantive understanding of human dignity are central to the conceptual history of human rights. What precisely constitutes human dignity, however, and how universality should be interpreted in the context of human rights are points of philosophical debate. Additional points of debate in human rights scholarship include notions of equality or equity. The group will also discuss claims that human rights discourse has often been exploited to impose Western structures on non-Western cultures.

Human Rights and International Relations

Co-Chairs: Achilles Skordas (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law), James Cavallaro (University Network for Human Rights/Wesleyan University/Yale University)

Themes the group will discuss include: the backlash against human rights and international courts; business and human rights; critical theory of human rights, including Marxist approaches; systems-theoretical analysis of human rights; regional human rights approaches, including in particular in Latin America and Africa; history of human rights and of human rights organizations (e.g., Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch); geopolitics and human rights; and human rights and European integration. The group plans to host events related to these themes and build on the Human Rights Discussion sub-group at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg.

Human Rights Education and Solidarity

Co-Chairs: Kathryn Libal (Director, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut), Karin Amos (Vice President for Academic Affairs, Education, University of Tübingen)

The Human Rights Education and Solidarity Working Group aims to discuss and share new ways of conveying the meaning of human rights to future generations and  increasing democratic awareness in societies. Furthermore, the group will explore the extent to which particular professions or members of social groups, such as those engaged in social care, business, politics, military, education institutions, or the media, require different methods for human rights education. The group aims to explore intercultural differences and commonalities concerning the meaning of human rights and democratic understanding. Concretely, we hope to consider methods of integration of human rights into the teaching programs of participating group members, with an integrated international perspective. We will foster exchange of research and scholarship, and include practitioners where possible. We will start with video conferences and virtual seminars amongst faculty and practitioners within the consortium and expand, if feasible, to include opportunities for our students. We will include them in the further development of concepts to be employed in practice.

Graduate Student Human Rights Research Working Group

Co-Chairs: Lia Börsch (PhD Student in History, University of Tübingen), Florian Kastner (PhD Student in German Studies and HRRC Graduate Assistant, University of Connecticut), Tobias Lebens (PhD Student in German Literary Studies, University of Tübingen)

The working group of graduate students focuses on narratives in relation to human rights and human rights violations, in particular in terms of depictions in film, literature, and photography. Using case studies, we investigate how human rights are constructed and negotiated, and how violations are dealt with. A primary focus will be on material from the 20th and 21st centuries. The working group meets twice per semester for discussion on the basis of shared reading and to plan joint projects.