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human rights studies

Vision Statement

The Human Rights Humanities Research Group, sponsored by the Taft Research Center, reflects the interests and expertise of UC faculty in the humanities, arts and social sciences and seeks to promote interdisciplinary discourse, research, and education in the field of human rights. Foregrounding the socially constructed dimensions of the human, humanism, human rights, the HHRG hosts public lectures and seminars, sponsors roundtable discussions between scholars and citizens on a constellations of issues: human rights violations, citizenship, asylum and refugee policies, nationally and internationally and national and international human rights laws and treaties. The HHRG thus provides a university forum for discussing curricular and program needs related to human rights.


  • Offer disciplinary (historical, literary, sociological, anthropological, philosophical, and political) perspectives on issues related to human rights, human rights violations, and human rights advocacy programs.
  • Examine the importance of human rights for the humanities, specifically analyzing the intersections of literature, film and documentaries in representing rights and rights violations within 20th-21st century contexts.
  • Address the following questions:

  • What are human rights? What are the "rights" of children? How do humanities scholars and students grapple with the political, material, and social dimensions of human rights? How do artists, writers, directors depict human rights violations in their art forms? What are the interpretive lenses that we may use in understanding human rights issues and representations of those issues in art, literature, and film?

  • Probe the intersections of humanities and human rights, as well as the role of literature and cultural forms in engaging human rights.
  • Foreground the humanist foundations of the human and of the humanities.
  • Attempt to explain how these humanist foundations have directly influenced human rights discourses.
  • Examine the theoretical turn within the academy toward post-humanism in the humanities during the 20th century.
  • Explore representations of the "human," and how human rights and human rights violations are depicted in literary, film, and other cultural texts.
  • Underscore the intersections of law and literature.
  • Investigate — through literary, historical, legal, political, anthropological, sociological, and rhetorical frames — what it means to be human, what constitutes human rights, what constitutes rights violations, and how these terms are defined within international legal treatises, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Third Proceedings of the Geneva Conventions (1949), and the Convention on Refugees (1951).
  • Encourage interdisciplinary frames for examining the human, human rights, and rights, generally.
  • Analyze issues related to race, gender, sexuality, migrant status, and human rights violations from historical, sociological, anthropological, philosophical and rhetorical methods.
  • Explore the narrative, cognitive, and literary framings of human rights discourses.
  • Probe the rhetorical structuring of human rights documents and records, such as refugee camps, detention centers, asylum cases and other legal records.
  • Host public humanities lectures, seminars and symposia on issues of human rights.
  • Sponsor roundtable discussions between human rights humanities scholars and lawyer and activists.
  • Coordinate graduate and undergraduate courses in human rights Humanities.
  • Offer a minor and graduate certificate in human rights humanities.
  • Educate and engage the public on human rights issues through humanities and social science perspectives.
  • Impact human rights policies locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Following the model established by Annie Sinton Taft and the Taft Trustees, we define the term "human rights humanities" to include interdisciplinary approaches to city studies from the fields of humanities (literature, philosophy, history, et cetera), the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, and political science), as well as from interdisciplinary approaches and area studies, such as Africana Studies, Judaic Studies, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Funding Goals

  • Establish a "Friends of Human Rights Humanities" Gift Program for personal donations.
  • Seek large donations from philanthropists and corporate sponsors, particularly Cincinnatians.
  • Secure private foundation monies to support long-term curricular and research objectives.
  • Explore the possibility of collaboratively writing and submitting grants to the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Social Sciences Research Council and other organizations

Allocation of External Funds Raised

  • Develop and offer graduate and undergraduate courses in Human Rights Humanities.
  • Support professional development of faculty in the research cohort.
  • Provide educational fora for the general public.
  • Co-ordinate cross-college activities between the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Law, especially the Urban-Morgan Human Rights Center and the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice.
  • Establish institutional infrastructure toward a Human Rights Humanities Program.
  • Research Cohort

    We are currently looking for scholars interested in the group. If you would like to participate, please email one of the coordinators, Stephen Porter, at, or Rebecca Sanders, at

    Past Events

    To get a glimpse at past events, please click here.

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