A New Politics of Human Rights: Crossing Disciplines, Regions, and Issues

Registration is free and open to all members of the UW-Madison, community members and others interested in human rights for the three day conference that begins at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, and lasts through 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7.

Conference overview:

The study and practice of human rights is burgeoning. Scholars in nearly all fields – not only law but also health and environmental sciences, not only political science and anthropology but also history, cultural studies and the arts – now engage questions of human rights in their scholarship and teaching. Human rights has come to refer to ever more diverse subject matters, having moved from emphasis on the fundamental right to physical integrity to areas as diverse as rights to culture, the Internet, death with dignity, and fresh air. For scholars and activists alike, moreover, the “human” in human rights no longer refers exclusively to living individuals who may suffer, but encompasses concepts of community and future generations.

Given the dynamism and reach of human rights claims in a fast-changing world, the time has come to step back to ask key questions: What concepts may usefully undergird an ever-growing and more heterogeneous field of study and practice in a twenty-first century world? If human rights comes to stand for “everything” (every right is fundamental and rooted in the human), does it come to stand for nothing and undermine its premise? If human rights becomes a standard language of law, and a standard language of moral claim and political mobilization, does it lose its counter-hegemonic potential?

The Conference aims to address such questions, and to consider what they mean for the future of human rights scholarship, teaching, and practice. It showcases an array of different approaches, disciplines and topics to the study of human rights, displaying the diversity of human rights scholarship on the UW campus and beyond, as a way to reflect on the motivating question of what are human rights in today’s world. We intend to integrate the reflections into the future development of an innovative UW-Madison Human Rights Program that draws on the best of contemporary human rights scholarship and teaching, and on our strong campus foundation in area studies and cross-disciplinary research.

More information and a complete schedule is available here.