International Workshop to Explore Global Challenges to Human Rights

Jim Tranquada

Can new conceptions of human rights be part of a more effective response to a wave of global xenophobic nationalism?

That is one of the provocative questions an international, interdisciplinary gathering of scholars and human rights practitioners will wrestle with during a September 25-27 workshop hosted by Occidental College and co-sponsored by USC, Indiana University and Arizona State University.

“Human rights are at a tipping point in their short history, increasingly the focus of attack and at the same time at the center of efforts to expand political democracy, social inclusion and economic equality,” says Anthony Chase, professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental and one of the workshop organizers.

“There is a shared sense that there needs to be a bigger concept of human rights, one that breaks outside of conventional borders—disciplinary, conceptual, geographic—and is capable of generating real impacts,” Chase says. “We have deliberately assembled an unusual mix of practitioners and theoreticians from different disciplines and different parts of the world in an attempt to shift the common discourse and explore ideas outside the norm.”

The invitation-only, two-day workshop will bring together more than two dozen scholars and practitioners from across the country and from the UK, India, Malaysia, Brazil, Colombia and Canada for a wide-ranging series of panels, talks and discussions. Participants will focus on such issues as gender and intersectionality, the crisis of cosmopolitanism, sexuality and identity, and the possibilities for a bottom-up, local-ownership approach to human rights.

Three lunchtime talks by workshop participants will be open to the public. On Wednesday, September 25 at 11:30 a.m. in the Johnson Global Forum, Huss Banai will speak on "A Game of Rogues: Trump vs. Iran"; on Thursday, September 26 at 12 noon in Choi Auditorium, Momin Rahman will speak on "Queer Muslim Challenges for Human Rights"; and on Friday, September 27 at 12 noon in the Cushman Board Room, Erin Bromaghim will speak on "Why Localization Matters: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in Los Angeles."

Huss Banai, professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies; Sofia Gruskin, director of the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, professor of law and professor of preventive medicine; and Pardis Mahdavi ’00, director of ASU’s School of Social Transformation, worked with Chase over the past six months to put the workshop together.

Occidental College participants include Phillip Ayoub and Madeline Baer, both associate professors of diplomacy and world affairs; Thalia Gonzalez, associate professor of politics; Laura Hebert, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs; and Dolores Trevizo, professor of sociology. Occidental students with research interests in the workshop themes will also be part of the panels.