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

The five thematic working groups, composed of an approximately equal number of participants from Connecticut and Baden-Württemberg, are the conceptual core of the Connecticut/Baden-Württemberg Human Rights Research Consortium (HRRC). The foci of the five groups are key human rights-issues of our time. The working groups schedule independent virtual meetings throughout the academic year (2-3 times per semester) and meet occasionally for in-person workshops. The scholarly exchange is designed to lead to a variety of collaborative activities and projects, such as publications, conference panels, policy recommendations, or educational activities.

The working language in these groups is English.

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

Human Rights, Science and Technology

Co-Chairs: Silja Vöneky (Institute for Public Law, University of Freiburg, Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies), Mindy Roseman (International Law Programs and Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights, Yale University)

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), Sebastian Wogenstein (German Studies, University of Connecticut)

This working group addresses 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 also discusses 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), Frauke Lachenmann (Academic Coordinator, Connecticut/Baden-Württemberg Human Rights Research Consortium)

Themes the group discusses 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 builds on the Human Rights Discussion sub-group at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, and working groups at the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute.

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 discusses and shares ways of conveying the meaning of human rights to future generations and  increasing democratic awareness in societies. Furthermore, the group explores 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 explores intercultural differences and commonalities concerning the meaning of human rights and democratic understanding. It also focuses on methods of integrating human rights into the teaching programs of participating group members with an international perspective. The group supports the inclusion of human rights practice approaches into research and scholarship where feasible.

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.