News & Highlights

As we begin the new academic year 2018/19, the Human Rights Program at Purdue invites you to take a look back at some of the accomplishments of our program, faculty, and students from the past year.

Scholars at Risk Spring Lecture

The Human Rights Program is a member of Scholars at Risk (SAR), an organization promoting academic freedom and offering protection to scholars whose situation currently prevents them from pursuing their research in their home country. Last spring, we helped support the mission of SAR by hosting one of their scholars, Dr. Sayed Hassan Akhlaq, who specializes in philosophy, religion, dialogue among civilizations, Islam and Human Rights. In his captivating lecture, Dr. Akhlaq shared his personal story of pursuing human rights activism in a turbulent region marked by the clash of opposing ideologies, and talked about different ways of making human rights activism in Afghanistan locally relevant, compelling, and culturally sensitive. The Human Rights Program at Purdue is committed to emphasizing the importance of academic freedom through working with SAR. We are also currently making plans to bring another SAR scholar to Purdue's campus soon.

Dr. Ahklaq is welcomed by Purdue faculty and graduate students.

Human Rights on the Move

The greatest highlight of the past academic year has undoubtedly been our Maymester study abroad program, 'Human Rights on the Move.' 14 students spent four weeks with us exploring human rights issues in Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Nuremberg and Munich (Germany). Our home base was at the wonderful Central European University (CEU), where the students enjoyed many stimulating lectures about the history and politics of the region with the CEU faculty as well as workshops hosted by CEU’s Human Rights Initiative. Both in Budapest and in Slovakia, we visited several NGOs that work on issues of migration and integration. In Germany, we focused primarily on the history of human rights and human rights as a means of reclaiming justice after the atrocities of World War II. In addition to the rich educational experience, our students spent a lot of time exploring some of the most beautiful and lively cities in Europe. By the end of the trip, students developed a deeper understanding of the intersection of human rights with the history and current political situation in the Central European region.

You can read our participants’ testimonies and see more pictures from the trip on our Facebook page. You can also read more about the trip in the Fall 2018 issue of the College of Liberal Arts' THiNK Magazine here. We are very thankful that our first 'Human Rights on the Move' program was a great experience for everyone. We can’t wait for another trip in 2020!

Human Rights Labs, Science and Social Context

Over the past academic year, our Human Rights Labs continued to serve as a platform for members of the Purdue community to receive feedback on their human rights-related research, and to learn about human rights issues from the perspective of different disciplines. We hosted five labs, featuring faculty members from Purdue’s Department of History, the Department of Political Science, and the Brian Lamb School of Communication. We also hosted a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. Finally, Professor Haley Oliver from Purdue’s Department of Food Sciences delivered our annual Science and Social Context lecture, introducing us to her team’s project focusing on implementing food safety standards in Afghanistan.

What We've Been Up To

REBEKAH KLEIN-PEJŠOVÁ (Associate Professor of History, Program Director) presented a paper on postwar Jewish communal networks and the Czechoslovak state for the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. There, she also participated in a roundtable on writing refugee history. Dr. Klein-Pejšová also contributed to the blog Refugee History, which highlights the book project Europe on the Move: Refugees in the Era of the Great War (Manchester UP, 2017) for which she contributed a chapter. And, of course, she worked closely with Alzbeta Hajkova and Chris Yeomans to organize the 'Human Rights on the Move' Maymester study abroad program! She continues her research on postwar Jewish displacement, dispersion, and contact within a newly emerging international human rights regime.

 (Associate Professor of Political Science, Assistant Director) has been working on a book on justice and human rights advocacy. An essay she wrote on this topic, “What kind of justice for human rights?”, appears in Human Rights and Justice: Philosophical, Economic, and Social Perspectives (eds. Melissa Labonte and Kurt Mills, Routledge, 2018). Her article from another research project, “Laws, talk, and human rights: The impact of treaty ratification, UN criticism, and democratic change on torture,” appeared in the Journal of Human Rights.

 (Professor of Philosophy, Assistant Director) has over the past year been working primarily on two issues: (1) the nature of historical experience, and (2) the history and justification of property rights. Both of these topics come out of his sabbatical research as an Alexander von Humboldt fellow in Munich, Germany. With respect to historical experience, Dr. Yeomans is convinced that previous philosophers have focused too much on change over time rather than the tension between social perspectives. What makes modern experience essentially historical is not that things change, but how we disagree with each other about what those changes mean. Concerning property, he argues that the concept can no longer serve to organize our understanding of economic agency and rights. It is a relic now of a great early modern hope that personal autonomy, economic development, and political equality could all be founded on a single principle that would render them not only consistent but jointly maximally satisfiable. The performative attempt from 1850-1950 to actually implement such a system showed that property rights truly protect only economic development. But economic agency is central to modern autonomy and must be understood and protected. He is currently working on a monograph which develops a new set of concepts for this purpose.

 (PhD candidate, Department of History) spent the 2017-18 academic year in Southern Ukraine, working with materials in the archives of Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Kherson. She presented her work at several institutions and public venues in Ukraine, participated in the 'Revisiting the Nation' School in Bucharest, and completed the 'Borderlands Studies in the Black Sea Region' School in Kharkiv. While in Ukraine, Amber also volunteered as an English instructor, helped Ukrainian students prepare for their language examinations and compile their graduate school application materials, and contributed to the translation and editing of a Ukrainian language publication. Finally, she published a peer-reviewed book chapter, titled “Time to Show the Kremlin America’s Full House: The Committee for Human Rights in the Soviet Union, Rabbi Gedalyah Engel, and Their Refusenik Adoptees, 1977-1992,” which examines some of the historical Human Rights activities on Purdue’s campus.

 (PhD student, Department of Philosophy, Research Assistant to the Program) spent the past academic year co-developing the Maymester study abroad program 'Human Rights on the Move' and working on her research concerning Hannah Arendt's concept of political plurality. She spent the summer in Chicago as a fellow at the Humanities Without Walls 2018 Pre-Doctoral Workshop sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellow Foundation.

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