Follow the ASA Section on Human Rights

Dear ASA Section on Human Rights,

To continue to maintain a lively section, announcements, job postings, and our section newsletter will be sent to our members on a monthly basis. Per the chair’s message (Brian Gran) in our fall 2018 newsletter, any announcements to the section must be sent to the chair (Brian Gran) and secretary/treasurer (Annie Isabel Fukushima): and

We encourage our members to:

Follow the Section on Human Rights Facebook:
Check out our section website:
Find monthly updates from the chair on our section list-serv.

For any other announcements and list-serv communities, we encourage folks to join these list-servs (Contact these list-servs directly as they have different administrators): and

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ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter, Fall 2018

Downloadable PDF: ASASectiononHumanRights_Fall2018Newsletter

­Table of Contents

A Message from the Chair

Message from Editors of the Spring 2019 ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter


2018 The Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award

2018 Best Scholarly Article

2018 Graduate Student Paper Award


Academic Lessons from Outreach by Brooke Chambers


Publications, Announcements, and Save the Date

Newsletter submission information

A Message from the Chair

Chair’s Column

Human rights are front and center in new and ongoing debates taking place across the world. From hostility to refugees and migrants, to armed conflict and violence, to deprivation and starvation, to growing disparities in health and access to health care, to government failure and corruption, the scholarship of sociologists who work on human rights is making differences. Students intensely desire to learn from sociologists about the meanings, utilities, and frameworks of human rights. Do human rights matter? Do they matter on university campuses? Do they matter where we work and live? Sociology of human rights demonstrates we can learn from the past as we contribute tackling questions about speech, beliefs, institutions, and inequalities. Sociologists are raising crucial questions for human rights concepts and practices.

Members of this Human Rights Section are at the forefront of this scholarship. The foundational work of Du Bois, Addams, and others reveals that human rights are at the root of Sociology. The Section is taking the lead in supporting sociologists who are studying and teaching human rights. Many of our members are performing services that advance the scholarship of human rights. While we celebrate accomplishments, I hope the Section can continue to foster sociology of human rights for members, the ASA, and for sociologists and students across the world.

Over this academic year and leading up to the 2019 annual meeting of the ASA, the Human Rights Section will work intently to build membership as it continues to identify and meet the needs and goals of the Section and its members. If you have suggestions or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Brian Gran


Thank you

On behalf of the Human Rights Section, I want to thank the officers who completed their terms during the 2018 annual ASA meeting. Thank you to Kiyo Tsutsui for his leadership as Chair. Kiyo advanced the Section’s interests in many ways, including financially and its relationship with other Sections. We are grateful to Vivian Shaw for her contributions as Student Representative to the Section. The Section thanks David Embrick, Elizabeth (Liz) Heger Boyle, and Lindsey Peterson for their service to the Section as Council members. As you know, Liz is the Section’s Chair Elect.

During the 2018 annual meeting, the Section welcomed Tianna Paschel and Hollie Nyseth Brehm as new Council members and Jeff Swindle as new Student Representative. Thank you for their commitment to the Section. We are grateful for their leadership.

I especially want to thank Annie Isabel Fukushima for her continuing service and leadership as the Section’s Secretary-Treasurer. This office is crucial to the Section’s health and future, and Annie has consistently exceeded the position’s responsibilities. Her service is a major reason for the Section’s vitality and growth. The Section owes a great deal to Annie.

The Section’s Newsletter

I want to thank Annie and Hollie for their dedication and significant contributions as the Section’s Newsletter Editors. The Section’s Newsletter is terrific! I am sure everyone would agree it is the best of all the ASA Sections’ newsletters. I also want to express gratitude to Annie for her work as the Section’s website Editor. The Section is very fortunate to enjoy the significant commitment and contributions of so many hard-working and brilliant sociologists.

The Human Rights Section welcomes Tianna Paschel and Tim Gill as the next Newsletter Editors. Tianna and Tim will start as Newsletter Editors with the next Newsletter. Please make sure to read their contribution to this Newsletter!

2018-2019 Committees

 Several Section members have agreed to contribute to the Human Rights Sections as members of committees. These committees do a great deal of work over the year leading up to the 2019 annual ASA meeting. The Section is grateful for their service and leadership.

NominationsKiyo Tsutsui will chair this committee. Joachim Savelsberg will serve on the committee, as well as an additional Section member.

MembershipClaudia Lopez will chair this committee. Liz Boyle and I plus six other Section members will serve on this committee.

Book awardChristopher Roberts will chair this committee, with two other Section members joining him.

Article awardRobin Stryker will chair this committee, with two other Section members joining her.

Student paper awardJames Mahoney of Northwestern University will chair this committee. David Frank and Tianna Paschel will serve on this committee.

Program committeeLiz Boyle, as Chair-Elect, and I will serve on this committee.

Mentoring committee: The Section has established a Mentoring Committee, which Brooke Chambers and Jeffrey Swindle are co-chairing.

2019 annual ASA meeting

The Human Rights Section will host two sessions during the 2019 annual ASA meeting. The Human Rights Section will hold the session, “Innovations in Sociology of Human Rights: New Challenges and New Questions.” Jamie Small is organizer. The Section will hold a joint session with Comparative-Historical Section: “Comparative Historical Sociology and Human Rights.” Matthias Koenig is the organizer. These sessions will probably take place on Saturday, August 10.

The Human Rights Section will probably hold its Council and Business meetings on Saturday, August 10. In addition, the Section will hold a reception with the Comparative-Historical and Political Sociology Sections on Saturday, August 10.

Across the 2019 annual meeting, several sessions will concentrate on human rights, including Special Sessions, Thematic Sessions, and Presidential Sessions.

UN Observer Status 

During the 2018 Business Meeting of the Human Rights Section, the possibility of establishing UN Observer Status for the Section was discussed. I contacted ASA leadership and learned that the ASA will not allow the Section to set up this status on its own. Instead, the Human Rights Section is working with ASA leadership to establish UN Observer Status for the entire ASA and its members. Liz Boyle and I are working with the ASA to establish this status.

Sociology Action Network

 The Section is working with ASA leadership on the Sociology Action Network (SAN). Information about SAN can be found here:

Briefly, the idea of SAN is to use expertise of sociologists to advance goals of civil society organizations that can bring about meaningful change. SAN will connect sociologists who want to volunteer their expertise to civil society organizations that will benefit from that expertise. The ASA will play a facilitator role of establishing partnerships. For more information, please visit the ASA website. It is hoped and expected that members of the Human Rights Section can provide useful support to SAN.

On posting to the Human Rights Section’s Listserv

To post to the Human Rights Section’s ASA listserv, please contact Annie Isabel Fukushima at or Brian Gran at Brian.Gran@Case.Edu.

Message from Editors of the Spring 2019 ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter

Introducing Tim Gill and Tianna Paschel
Newsletter Editors starting 2019 Spring

We are both very excited to begin our work on the section’s newsletter. Tim Gill is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, and his research has primarily focused on U.S. democracy promotion in contemporary Venezuela and the Venezuelan government’s response to these efforts. He is the author of a forthcoming edited volume looking at U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere under Trump, titled The Future of U.S. Empire in the Americas: The Trump Administration and Beyond. Tianna S. Paschel is associate professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of California -Berkeley. Her research explores the relationship between racial ideology, politics, and globalization in Latin America. She is the author of the book, Becoming Black Political Subjects, which draws on ethnographic and archival methods to explore the shift in the 1990s from ideas of unmarked universal citizenship to multicultural citizenship regimes and the recognition of specific rights for black populations by Latin American states. We plan to continue providing you with excellent and relevant content in much the same way that Annie and Hollie have. We have many ideas for timely discussions to feature in our upcoming newsletters, and we hope that you might consider contributing.

For the spring newsletter, “Fragile Democracies,” we invite contributions that look at human rights in the era of right-wing populism, and the politicization of the judiciary in countries around the world. We hope that submissions will examine the impact of this swing to the right on legal protections for citizens and those living within and between national borders. We also would like pieces that critically reflect on human rights mobilization in this critical political moment, as well as historical pieces that give us insights into the present. Ultimately, we hope these contributions will move beyond a focus on the state of political discourse and move toward an examination of the actual policies implemented by right-wing governments, as well as the social movements that have challenged them. We encourage contributions on cases from around the world, and we also hope that this newsletter will generate a productive cross-national dialogue that includes reflections on the United States.

The deadline for submissions is March 1. Please send them to both Tianna ( and Tim (

Tim Gill
Tianna Paschel


2018 The Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award

by David Cunningham

The Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award committee was pleased to consider a strong slate of eleven nominees for this year’s award. While a number of those books merit recognition, the committee unanimously selected Ya-Wen Lei as the 2018 award recipient, for her book The Contentious Public Sphere: Law, Media, & Authoritarian Rule in China (Princeton University Press, 2018). Lei’s book is concerned with a critical puzzle: how, in the face of ongoing state censorship and repression, a vibrant civil sphere has developed over the past decade to effectively challenge the Chinese state. Marshaling an ambitious range of data (encompassing multiple national surveys, decades of newspaper accounts, reams of extracted online text, and 160 in-depth interviews), Lei’s historical analysis locates the rise of China’s contentious public sphere as an unintended effect of the authoritarian state’s modernization project initiated in the mid-2000s. Identifying and linking processes in the media and legal fields, Lei is attentive to the actions and collaborations of diverse constituencies — from state officials to activists, media professionals, peasants, students and other “netizens.” Her analysis offers an elegant and sophisticated roadmap to understand China’s ongoing political, cultural, and social transformations, as well as a powerful framework to predict the future of its unruly public sphere.

The committee also was highly impressed with Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick’s What Slaveholders Think: How Contemporary Perpetrators Rationalize What They Do (Columbia University Press, 2017), and is pleased to recognize this work with an honorable mention. Choi-Fitzpatrick’s engaging study operates at the intersection of social movements and human rights scholarship, developing a compelling portrait of the paternalistic perspectives of contemporary slaveholders, who, he finds, often “are respected members of their community, violating human rights but not social norms.” Drawing on 300 individual and focus-group interviews with slaveholders, laborers, community leaders, and activists in rural India, Choi-Fitzpatrick deftly elucidates the worldviews that legitimize slaveholders’ own efforts, as well as the ways in which they respond to challenges to their actions. Such concerns reside at the heart of human rights scholarship and action, offering a close look at the forces that perpetuate subjugation.

Please join us in congratulating Ya-Wen and Austin for their outstanding work, which exemplifies the high quality of the scholarship that continues to emerge out of the section. 

2018 Best Scholarly Article Award

By James Mahoney

We are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2018 ASA Human Rights Section Best Article Award:

Nicholas Pedriana, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Robin Stryker, University of Arizona for “From Legal Doctrine to Social Transformation? Comparing U.S. Voting Rights, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Fair Housing Legislation,” published with the American Journal of Sociology in July 2017.

Pedriana and Stryker focus on a major puzzle in the field of civil rights: Why was 1960s civil rights legislation in the United States most effective at securing voting rights; least effective at securing housing rights; and only partially effective at securing employment rights? The authors illustrate the shortcomings of frameworks emphasizing enforcement power, policy entrepreneurs, bureaucratic capabilities, and white resentment.

To explain the variation, Pedriana and Stryker build a new general theory that they call the “group-centered effects (GCE) framework.” They begin by recognizing that the legal system is stacked against subordinate groups that seek to achieve human rights gains. In this context, the easiest way to demonstrate discrimination is by calling attention to substantive group results. That is, GCE establishes discrimination by pointing to disparities in outcomes rather than the discriminatory processes themselves. From this perspective, voting rights legislation was more effective than employment and especially housing legislation because it focused on the equalizing results of rule changes (e.g., abolishing literacy tests) rather becoming bogged down in legal questions about whether the prior rules were inherently discriminatory in particular cases.
The committee was impressed by the originality of the theoretical framework and its ability to make sense of significant historical facts and help solve an important empirical puzzle in the field of human rights. The committee also noted that the theoretical framework has important implications for civil rights and anti-discrimination policy going forward. It suggests that civil rights advocates would do well to consider how GCE principles can be leveraged to make policy implementation more effective in the future. Rather than focus on the question of whether a process is discriminatory at the individual level, advocates might instead focus on whether changing a process will generate positive results at the group level.

This year’s prize committee was Gregory Hooks, McMaster University; James Mahoney, Northwestern University (chair); and Tianna Paschel, University of California, Berkeley.

2018 Graduate Student Paper Award

By Claudia Lopez

Good morning, I would like to begin by acknowledging and thanking LaDawn Haglund and Yan Long for their work on the award committee. It is my distinct pleasure to award the 2018 ASA Human Rights Section Best Graduate Student Paper Award to Saskia Dunkell for her paper, “Decoupling Transitional Justice: Selective Approaches for Addressing Human Rights Abuses in Colombia.” This paper examine the historical context, politics, and power struggles within a country that shift and facilitate transitional justice mechanisms. Dunkell discusses how transitional justice mechanisms are framed as an acceptable and “taken for granted” approach for addressing mass violence and argues that countries adopt these mechanisms in different uneven ways. The paper uses the concept of selective coupling to “better explain how states adopt some components of a policy that signals a commitment to a global standard, while rejecting or altering other aspects in response to national pressures.” Based on 16 months of fieldwork in Colombia, Dunkell highlights two transitional justice approaches—a justice-focused approach for paramilitaries in 2005 and an acknowledgment-focused approach for guerrillas in 2016. By highlighting these two approaches, the author is able to analyze how the state tweaks, challenges, and changes particular aspects of transitional justice mechanisms at different historical moments. Most interestingly, the paper shows how selective coupling happens not solely between countries but also within one country.

The committee selected this paper due to is significant contribution to the sociology of human rights. Methodologically, the fieldwork is impressive and the qualitative study adds depth to research on the decoupling of international human rights commitments. Theoretically, we found Dunkell’s selective coupling framework innovative and applicable in broader contexts. The paper adds to sociological theories of globalization by disputing previous research that suggests that the globalization of human rights as “a cohesive, universal, and irreversible trend.” Please join me in congratulating Saskia Dunkell.


Academic Lessons from Outreach

by Brooke Chambers

The word “outreach” inherently implies a one-way relationship. In practice, educational outreach is often presented as the chance to share academic knowledge outside of a scholarly context. It is, however, far less common to see outreach as a chance for academics themselves to learn new lessons or to reflect on their work. This has been my experience since beginning graduate school, where I have found that outreach has the potential to enrich my own research.

The idea of outreach as scholarly education began to ring true the more I became involved with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which hosts the Genocide Education Outreach (GEO) program. GEO brings graduate students into the community to present their work in non-university settings, like high schools or public libraries. This does, of course, provide a valuable service to many different community groups in the traditional sense of outreach. However, since I began coordinating the program, I have had the opportunity to reflect with other GEO presenters on the potential of outreach to impact our own research. Here, I have selected a few regular questions we have received from GEO participants and my thoughts as to how such engagement can enrich academic knowledge.

“Why do you do this work?”

Academic institutions provide a space in which to explore the theoretical and methodological “why’s” which draw scholars to their research. Why use collective memory to study memorialization? Why use post-colonial theory to understand statehood? However, outreach events focus upon a different “why”. Why do people kill their neighbors? Why did no one stop them? Participants who ask these questions are generally not looking to hear explicitly about the scholarly foundations which drive our work. They are asking for commentary about the very human nature of what we have chosen to study.

This question allows for expansion about the interpersonal moments which make the social sciences so rich, but those which may not always make it into the journal article. I treasure the chance to bring Rwanda to life for those who may only know it in the context of tragedy. Outreach allows me to highlight, for example, the human interaction behind interviews with memorial site staff or university students. I can share not only research findings, but stories I was told of family life, academic dreams, and participants’ hopes for the future of Rwanda. This allows the opportunity to dive deeply into the human experiences upon which scholarly work is grounded. Sharing these stories alongside the academic findings has helped me remember the humanness of my work and guided me in emphasizing this within my academic writing.

“Why should I care about this?”

This question arises in a variety of iterations. Some individuals wonder why they should care about global suffering while those in their own country have problems. Others may have preconceived notions of victimhood, and those we present may not fit that definition. Though sometimes this question is tinged with distrust or skepticism, it is often posed with genuine interest, or an assumption that an individual can only worry about so much at once. Outreach has asked me to defend the worthiness of my work in a moralistic sense, to advocate for the value of humans who may often be ignored or demonized. Though clearly challenging, there can be value in respectfully engaging with fundamental critics who may dismiss the value of human rights concerns. In arguing for the ethics behind the quest for knowledge of social behavior, I have developed answers to questions I had not encountered within an academic setting, adding enrichment and foundation to my scholarly arguments.

What can I do?”

Outreach events can bring forward a range of emotions for participants. They may feel motivated to encourage change, or they may be frustrated that human rights violations occur so frequently within the US and globally. Outreach often showcases a political desire to seek reform and address issues of human suffering. This reaffirms that academic knowledge is desired by those outside of universities, but it also highlights that barriers exist to broader public engagement within academic knowledge. Public engagement requires a distinct argumentative approach and a different language than that which is often used within academic spaces. But outreach also reinforces the worthiness of partnership and information-sharing outside of academic institutions. Perhaps most simply, GEO events remind me that much of the public cares about the questions that human rights scholars are asking.

These questions are just some among many which GEO presenters have discussed with each other following our events. Each time, new thoughts and reactions come forward. While providing valuable opportunities to spread scholarly knowledge, GEO events can also inspire presenters to further reflect on the humanness of their work. More broadly, outreach can spur forward academic thought, and through this, it can help to enrich research.



Check out members’ recent publications.


Berry, Marie E. War, women, and power: From violence to mobilization in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Beresford, Alexander, Marie E. Berry, and Laura Mann. “Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality.” Democratization (2018): 1-20. (

Bustamante, Juan Jose. “‘La Polimigra’: A Social Construct Behind the ‘Deportation Regime’ in the Greater Northwest Arkansas Region.” (With Eric Gamino). Humanity & Society 42(3):344- 366, 2018. doi: 10.1177/0160597617748165. Fulbright College, “OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology Faculty Award,” University of Arkansas, 2018

Hazar, Caner. 2018. “Between Secularism and Pro-Islamism: A Historical Review of LGBT Activism During the Pro-Islam JDP Rule in Turkey.” in Queer Activism After Marriage Equality, eds. DeFilippis, J.N.; Yarbrough, M.; & Jones, A.  Oxfordshire: Routledge.

Velasco, Kristopher. 2018. “Human Rights INGOs, LGBT INGOs, and LGBT Policy Diffusion, 1991 – 2015.” Social Forces 97(1):377 – 404. (winner of the 2017 Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the Human Rights Section).

Roman, David, “Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018;


Fritz, Jan Marie. Elected to the Executive Committee of the International Sociological Assn.  (2018-2022). Elected President of RC46 Clinical Sociology of the International Sociological Assn.  Organized a workshop (The Central Inclusion of Women and Girls: National Action Plans, Localization Efforts and Effective Mobilization) and gave a presentation at the 67th annual United Nations  DPI/NGO conference (August 22, 2018) at UNHQ in NYC

Save the dates: 2019 American Sociological Association conference, “Engaging Social Justice for a Better World,” August 10 – 13, 2019, New York, NY.

Newsletter Submission Information

The deadline for submissions is March 1. Please send them to both Tianna ( and Tim ( Articles: Articles that highlight research, teaching, or engagement relevant to human rights.

Research Notes: Brief reflections on research studies related to human rights. Notes could focus on the methodology, the findings, the dissemination of findings, etc.

Teaching Notes: Brief reflections on teaching about human rights in undergraduate or graduate classrooms. Tips and classroom activities are especially welcome.

Grassroots Notes: Reflections, stories, and advice pertaining to engagement with local organizations, policymakers, and/or grassroots activists.

Publications and Announcements: Recently published a book, article, or paper that the human rights section members should read? Have news or an opportunity that you would like to share with the human rights community? Please send it our way!

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ASA Section on Human Rights – 2018 Conference Activities

Hope to see our members and interested members at our section events!

  • 1686 – Joint Reception: Section on Comparative-Historical Sociology; Section on History of Sociology; Section on Global and Transnational Sociology; and Section on Human Rights Sat, August 11, 6:30 to 8:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon J 
  • 3255 – Human Rights. Mon, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 410

  • 4124 – State Repression, Human Rights and Terror Tue, August 14, 8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113C

  • 4212 – Section on Human Rights Refereed Roundtable Session Tue, August 14, 10:30 to 11:30am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 106AB

  • 4212 – Section on Human Rights Business Meeting Tue, August 14, 11:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 106AB

  • 4324 – Frontiers of Human Rights Research Tue, August 14, 12:30 to 2:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113C




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Gifting Membership

Re: Give gift memberships now—Time is running out!
Dear Sociology of Human Rights Section Members,
The last day to give gift memberships to the Sociology of Human Rights section is July 31. This is an inexpensive way to support graduate students or junior colleagues interested in human rights, but low on cash. It also helps the section—if every current faculty member of the section gave just one gift membership, we would be well over the threshold to have an additional Human Rights panel at the 2019 ASA.
It’s easy to give gift memberships. Log in to the ASA website. Follow the link for gifting section memberships under Contribute/Give. The instructions are straightforward. (You can also gift regular ASA memberships to students who do not already belong to the organization).
Each student or colleague will get an email letting them know they’ve been signed up, and allowing them the opportunity to opt out.
Please act now to keep our vibrant section growing!
Yours truly,
Liz Boyle
Chair, Sociology of Human Rights Membership Committee
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ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter, Spring 2018 – Student Rights in the Age of Human Rights.

Downloadable PDF: ASASectiononHumanRights_Spring2018Newsletter

­Table of Contents

A Message from the Editors by  Annie Isabel Fukushima & Hollie Nyseth Brehm


Methodological and Epistemological Challenges Concerning Transgender Rights and Self-Reported Discrimination in Thailand
Rebecca Farber

Introducing the LGBTI Inclusion Index: Challenges and Opportunities
Kristopher Velasco

I Am a Dreamer. I am Living a Nightmare.
Juan Escalante


The Right to Education: Centering the Undocumented Student
Claudia López and Mayra G. Torres



Newsletter submission information

A Message from the Editors

Welcome to our Spring 2018 newsletter. This newsletter is entitled, “Student Rights in the Age of Human Rights.” Over the past few months, the world has continued to witness horrific events, though there have also been a number of efforts that serve as a constant reminder of the resilience of people and the coalitional work occurring to address human rights violations. Recently, the massacre of 14 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has once again propelled gun debates into the public eye. It is one of the many mass shootings that has occurred in the United States, including mass shootings in Las Vegas (2017), Sutherland Springs Church (2017), the Orlando Pulse nightclub (2016), San Bernardino (2015), Washington Navy Yard (2013), Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012), Aurora (2012), Virginia Tech (2007), among many others.

While mass shootings continue to occur in the United States, followed by silence, apathy, and even polarized perceptions surrounding gun rights and human rights, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School organized utilizing strategies of previous movements – building coalition across issues and organizing through public actions. Emma González’s public speech struck a chord across the United States – proclaiming how, “The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us… kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.”[1] Emma and her classmates have organized a national walkout; on March 24, students will “March for Our Lives.” This mass organizing is significant and is an important reminder of the multiple movements inspired by students taking to the streets and to Capitol Hill, among other places, and organizing to change the conditions of people. Indeed, rights and the affront to rights continue to be a Twenty-First century site of contestation. From the Civil Rights Movement, the Third World Liberation Front, Chicago student walkouts in 1963, the desegregation sit-ins, DREAMers, Undocuqueer, Black Lives Matter, among numerous other movements, students shape the course of human rights.

Therefore, this newsletter is dedicated to the students of the American Sociological Association Section on Human Rights. We would like to thank our students for their membership, therefore dedicate this newsletter to our students.  We are a thriving section because of our students. We look forward to reading your work, learning about your pedagogies, and having you as part of our leadership – our section is thriving due to the 80 students who are a part of our section on human rights.

Thank you for your membership and ongoing support of the American Sociological Associations commitment to human rights through the Section on Human Rights.
Annie Isabel Fukushima, University of Utah
Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Ohio State University


Methodological and Epistemological Challenges Concerning Transgender Rights and Self-Reported Discrimination in Thailand

by Rebecca Farber, Boston University 

A Thai transgender woman, age 22, found it “difficult to say” whether she had recently experienced discrimination during a medical checkup when she was treated as a male patient rather than female. Yet, several years before, nurses had refused to wash her. They were unsure if the role should be assigned to a male or female nurse and instead designated the task to her parents. While the Thai transgender woman lives and identifies as female, her past experience with medical mistreatment – or perhaps more clearly, non-treatment – may have made it challenging for her to determine if her recent encounter being treated like a man was problematic. This anecdote lends insights about the potential empirical and epistemological challenges in capturing and categorizing self-reported discrimination for marginalized people and vulnerable populations – including people living with HIV/AIDS, immigrants, or religious minorities – who may have internalized stigma regarding their rights to basic health care access.

In the case of the Thai transgender woman who did not categorize her own experience with health services as problematic, what does it mean when a researcher’s classification of the incident might differ? It signifies that methods such as quantitative surveys might not fully capture levels of discrimination if participants themselves do not consider or explicate their experiences as problematic, whether due to one’s internalized negative societal beliefs, self-stigma (Samakkeekarom and Taesombat 2013), a lack of trust between researcher/participant, or linguistic differences in the meaning of “discrimination.” Moreover, the discrepancies in Thai transgender people’s self-reported discrimination raise questions about the role of researchers in labeling a person’s experience as discriminatory, particularly if the individual did not classify it as such. If a Thai transgender woman does not think it is wrong to be treated as a male in a check-up, is it problematic for a cisgender researcher from the United States to categorize the event as discrimination? As human rights scholars, how do we honor the agency of marginalized people to describe their own realities, without ascribing or asserting universalizing narratives of rights and discrimination?

Although Thailand is frequently hailed as the “Land of Smiles” and a place where LGBT people from around the world are openly accepted, local transgender people face various degrees of discrimination in a variety of settings, including in healthcare systems. Transgender people in Thailand are an increasingly visible and prominent group, yet they currently lack legal recognition as their self-identified gender. For many, the absence of legal gender recognition creates a barrier to health care access, as it can be humiliating and dehumanizing for transgender women to be called male and identified as “Mister” in the waiting room. Some Thai transgender people report receiving medical services in hallways because there are only male and female hospital wards. In addition, there are no standardized trainings for medical personnel related to clinical and cultural transgender health competence, such as hormone monitoring and neovaginal care. Universal health coverage does not offer gender-affirming services such as hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgery, even though access to gender affirmation is an essential social determinant of health (Asia Pacific Transgender Network 2017). When transgender people must pay out of pocket for gender-affirming health services, they are also less likely to pay for services such as HIV/AIDS testing.

While these questions reflect ongoing issues of power, positionality, and privilege embedded in human rights research, it is important that scholar-activists do not stop short of including all people, such as sex/gender minorities, in scholarship and activism. A primary step in understanding and addressing transgender people’s health disparities and experiences with discrimination is to identify and include transgender people in research and demographic surveys. The research on the experiences of gender minorities due to binary categorizations of sex and gender in legal documents and surveys from organizations, academia, and state/federal agencies is limited. Due to the unique issues and needs of transgender people, research from the U.S. has suggested how population-based surveys can include questions to make visible transgender and gender minority people (The Williams Institute 2014). It is also important for research to measure levels of internalized stigma by creating and adapting scales to fit diverse cultural contexts. Surveys on transphobia provide a foundation to assess transgender people’s self-stigma and experiences with rights (Healy 2011). Research on transgender people in the Philippines (Reyes et al. 2016) has adapted Wagner’s Internalized Homophobia Scale (2014) and Mak and Cheung’s Self-Stigma Scale (2010) to study how transgender people accepted negative societal beliefs and the impact on their concept of self. Rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach to measure self-stigma across diverse groups, existent models may be further crafted to reflect linguistic nuances and the lived realities of marginalized groups.

Using unique scales to account for self-stigma might allow human rights research and advocacy to better capture the context that undergirds how one frames their experiences with rights and/or oppression. Regardless of if and how we label as problematic the experiences of transgender people in the health care setting, it is clear that states can make healthcare more inclusive and accessible for transgender people by training medical professionals about transgender people’s health needs, and expanding health insurance to include access to gender-affirming services. There are also regional roadmaps and global blueprints that take into account cultural specificities and differences to address transgender people’s unique needs (Wolf et al. 2016).

By understanding transgender people’s experiences with and perceptions of health care, research and advocacy can illuminate interlocking issues related to stigma, discrimination, and rights. Qualitative interviews allow participants to expand on their experiences in the health care setting in ways that quantitative surveys might obscure, providing narrative accounts rather than just a yes or no answer. These initial findings also raise questions about the hierarchies of knowledge production and universalized human rights discourses, issues which require a researcher’s continued self-reflexivity and awareness of institutional power dynamics.


Asia Pacific Transgender Network. 2017. “Legal Gender Recognition: A Multi-Country Legal and Policy Review in Asia.”

Healy, Kayden Z. 2011. Internalized Transphobia, Minority Stress, and Collective Self-Esteem. Dissertation. Ohio State University.

Mak, Winnie W.S., and Rebecca Y.M. Cheung. 2010. “Self‐Stigma Among Concealable Minorities in Hong Kong: Conceptualization and Unified Measurement.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 80(2): 267-81.

Reyes, Marc Eric S., Anna Regina E. Alcantara, Ariana Coleene C. Reyes, Patricia Ann L. Yulo, and Christian Isaac P. Santos. 2016. “Exploring the Link Between Internalized Stigma and Self-Concept Clarity Among Filipino Transgenders.” North American Journal of Psychology 18(2): 335-44.

Samakkeekarom, Ronnapoom, and Jesdada Taesombat. 2013. “Give Me More: Vulnerabilities of Thai Transgender Sex Workers.” Culture Health & Sexuality.

the GenIUSS Group. 2014. Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender And Other Gender Minority Respondents On Population-Based Surveys. J.L. Herman (ed.). Los Angeles, CA: the Williams Institute.

Wagner, Glenn J. 1998. “Internalized Homophobia Scale.” In Davis, Clive M., William L. Yarber, and Robert Bauserman. Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Wolf, R. Cameron, Darrin Adams, Robyn Dayton, Annette Verster, Joe Wong, Marcela Romero, Rafael Mazin, Edmund Settle, Tim Sladden, and JoAnne Keatley. 2016. “Putting the T in Tools: A Roadmap For Implementation Of New Global And Regional Transgender Guidance.” Journal of the International AIDS Society 19, no. 3, Suppl 2.

Introducing the LGBTI Inclusion Index: Challenges and Opportunities

by Kristopher Velasco, University of Texas at Austin

On Human Rights Day 2015, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced it will be developing the newest human rights indicator: the LGBTI Inclusion Index. The aim of this index is to create a standardized, comparable barometer of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) experiences to better guide policy, investments, and development decisions (Badgett and Crehan 2016). The motivation to develop such an index, UNDP leaders stressed, was because achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) would not be possible if LGBTI communities continued to face exclusion (Wahlén 2015). Clifton Cortez, then a UNDP official, argued that given the agency’s recent development of the Gender Inequality Index, UNDP was in a strong position to begin the difficult task of converting this idea into a comparative measure of LGBTI life in accordance with the SDGs. (See Cortez’s blogpost title, “When people are counted, no one is left behind,” for further introduction).

Two years after introduction, what is the current status of the LGBTI Inclusion Index? First, it appears that much of the institutional support for this new measure has shifted to the World Bank as Cortez switched to the Bank from UNDP – branding still emphasizes “UNDP-led LGBTI Inclusion Index,” (Badgett and Crehan 2016). Second, the primary area of work has been a long consultation process with LGBTI activists and civil society organizations, development agencies, researchers, and other groups fleshing out what the LGBTI Inclusion Index should encompass. This consultation process recently ended in December 2017 when the World Bank-UNDP Working Group hosted its final session with LGBTI civil society organizations and activists in Washington, D.C. (Cortez, Lebbos, and Regner 2017).

What emerged from these sessions was a consensus that the LGBTI Inclusion Index should focus, primarily, on the following areas: economic well-being, political and civil participation, education, personal security and violence, and health (see figure below). The operationalizations of these areas through specific indicators, however, has yet to be decided and fully agreed upon. Which leads to the third development: a strategy to build the infrastructure for a global research network to begin the process of turning the broad outlines into a concrete measure. The Working Group is hoping that major donors, multilateral agencies, and state governments will help fund this new area of research led by academics, research institutions, and others to begin making the LGBTI Inclusion Index come to life. (See the full report here.)

Figure from Badgett and Crehan 2016.

In framing the LGBTI Inclusion Index, Cortez and the World Bank’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity team argue:

“While our set of indicators will quantify, compare, and track LGBTI inclusion, it can also become a policy roadmap on how to create LGBTI inclusive societies…We hope that this will prompt a ‘race to the top.’ The World Bank’s Doing Business report is a good example of how this works,” (Cortez, Lebbos, and Regner 2017).

In a case of unfortunate timing, weeks after Cortez and team wrote this blogpost on the World Bank’s website, the Wall Street Journal broke a story on the Doing Business report, running the headline “World Bank Unfairly Influenced Its Own Competitiveness Rankings” (Zumbrun and Talley 2018). This case perfectly encompasses the challenges with such cross-national index systems: “statistical measures have embedded theories and values that shape apparently objective information and influence decisions,” (Merry 2011, p. S85).

Through a channeling of Foucault’s knowledge-power axis, Merry (2011) provides an important overview of the challenges, as well as opportunities, that human rights indicators present. Merry notes how the development of human rights indicators creates a new, hegemonic power structure, in particular, through the creation and labeling of “self-evident” categories. For example, take the beginning premise of the LGBTI Inclusion Index: ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’, ‘transgender,’ and ‘intersex’ are quantifiable, meaningful categories portable across all 193 countries the index hopes to incorporate. As a consequence, Merry calls for an interrogation of the political assumptions and decisions that become embedded within such measures – especially given the ramifications for global governance.

The close alignment the LGBTI Inclusion Index has with the World Bank makes its effects on global governance that much more consequential. First, it is part of the larger trend of the World Bank moving into its role as a ‘Knowledge Bank’ (Mehta 2001; Enns 2015). Second, the symbolic and practical conflation of LGBTI inclusion and development on the world stage questions the receptiveness of both. Opponents of LGBTI rights and inclusion already commonly frame their opposition as resisting “Western” or “Un-African” imports – a discursive frame that becomes much easier given the World Bank’s history and reputation in much of the Global South.  Indeed, Bosia and Weiss (2013) outline how state leaders strategically deploy the politics of homophobia to consolidate their support vis-à-vis the West– making it easy to imagine leaders blaming burdensome loan conditions or structural adjustments on LGBTI populations and the newly invented Index. The UNDP-World Bank Working Group does appear to be aware of these dynamics, though, as evident in the repeated usage of the “UNDP-led” qualifier in their reports.

With that said, the development of the new LGBTI Inclusion Index does present an important opportunity for those of us studying human rights, global governance, sexuality, and LGBTI-related topics. For one, the report calls for a robust investment into a new research network. These investments, if they come to be, mean that researchers and academics who understand the aforementioned limitations can play a role in shaping this measure and produce much-needed research on LGBTI lives and experiences, especially outside North America and Europe. And, most importantly, the fact that the measure it still in its infancy allows for the Working Group to embrace radical transparency. Merry (2011) calls for an ethnography of indicators to reveal how they are developed and their political biases. The Working Group could support this process by disclosing who the participants shaping the index are, how they were chosen, how the indicators are chosen, how the project is funded, and so forth. The research community can also support this process by engaging the Working Group and holding them accountable. By making the process and political assumptions embedded within the new measure transparent, it will help to ensure that the LGBTI Inclusion Index is not treated as measure of objective, statistical truth, but as a political, yet useful, barometer to understanding LGBTI life.


Badgett, Lee M. V. and Phil Crehan. 2016. “Investing in a Research Revolution for LGBTI Inclusion.” The World Bank November. Retrieved December 20, 2017 (

Cortez, Clift, Toni Joe Lebbos, and Lucas Regner. 2017. “Is Your Country LGBTI Inclusive? With Better Data, We’ll Know.” The Data Blog, December 11, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2018 (

Enns, Charis. 2015. “Knowledges in Competition: Knowledge Discourse at the World Bank during the Knowledge for Development Era.” Global Social Policy 15(1): 71-80.

Mehta, Lyla. 2001. “The World Bank and Its Emerging Knowledge Empire.” Human Organization 62(2): 189-196.

Merry, Sally Engle. 2011. “Measuring the World: Indicators, Human Rights, and Global Governance.” Current Anthropology 52(3): S83-S95.

Wahlén, Catherine Benson. 2015. “UN Agencies Address LGBTI Inclusion, UNDP Launches Index.” SDG Knowledge Hub, December 14. Retrieved January 10, 2018 (

Zumbrun, Josh and Ian Talley. 2018. “World Bank Unfairly Influenced Its Own Competitiveness Rankings.” The Wall Street Journal, January 12. Retrieved January 13, 2018 (


I Am a Dreamer. I’m Living a Nightmare.

Juan Escalante

January 18, 2018

Originally published in the Huffington Post:

The Dreamers’ fight is being waged by some of the boldest people I have ever met. They are fighting for a decent life in the United States ― even if it means potentially facing swift and merciless deportation at the hands of Trump’s anti-immigrant forces.

Over the holiday break, I found myself drowning in uncertainty regarding my future in the United States.

For a moment, I had thought about the possibility of going back to school for a second master’s degree. Maybe I could pursue a field of study that would put my in-depth knowledge of immigration policy and politics to good use.

But after speaking to my mother about it, I led this exciting, imaginary scenario to its logical conclusion. Would I be able to handle the rigorous coursework ― or plan months or years ahead ― given the uncertainty around my current immigration status? This is the haunting question that often paralyzes young immigrants like myself, known as Dreamers, as they attempt to map out their futures.

For the past 10 years, I have been fighting to adjust my immigration status amid our nation’s broken immigration system. My family arrived in the United States in 2000 and applied for green cards, but they fell out of status and became undocumented following bad advice from our immigration attorney.

Despite the obstacles ― and, trust me, there are plenty ― I was able to graduate from high school, undergrad and graduate school. But those were different times.

Since 2012, I have been able to excel professionally and heal a lot of the psychological wounds caused by the fear of living under constant threat of deportation. All of this because former President Barack Obama launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

While DACA was not perfect, the relief that it bought for up to 800,000 Dreamers like myself was immeasurable. Thanks to DACA, I was able to obtain a work permit, a driver’s license and a Social Security card ― three documents whose preciousness escape most American citizens.

The real stress for many DACA recipients comes from the constant seesawing that Congress and the White House put on in full display across news outlets.

The Trump administration’s reckless and inhumane termination of DACA last September has catapulted Dreamers into deep uncertainty and toxic trauma.

With the help of the anti-immigrant Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House aide Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump has upended the lives of young aspiring Americans who, just like myself, want a shot at going to school, getting a job and pursuing the American dream.

Despite calls from Dreamers and their allies to codify DACA into law, anti-immigrant hawks in Congress and the White House have stalled a proposed agreement that paired government funding with protecting Dreamers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is “waiting” on the White House to tell him what he should legislate, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants a “DACA compromise,” somehow ignoring about four different bipartisan immigration proposals to address the issue within his own chamber.

Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Friday to avoid a government shutdown, and this legislation may or may not include a DACA fix. A bipartisan solution for DACA is needed by March 5, the deadline President Trump gave Congress to solve the issue.

As Trump spars with both Democrats and Republicans over DACA proposals and describes some immigrants’ nations with vile language, fear and anxiety have gripped Dreamers all across the country. One can’t help but wonder: What kind of psychological harm is this perpetual limbo causing?

Personally, I have been worried about how I will help sustain myself, pay my bills and help my family from time to time with some of their expenses. But one of the main things that keeps me up at night is the thought of how other Dreamers are processing current events.

Right now, Dreamers are dealing with an insurmountable number of problems. Expiring work permits means losing the job that helps pay the bills. Losing a driver’s license means being unable to travel or drive anywhere in the United States. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real stress for many DACA recipients comes from the constant seesawing that Congress and the White House put on in full display across news outlets.

A majority of my advocacy is done online, engaging people and informing them of what they can do to help Dreamers. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive a message from a Dreamer who is crying inside a bathroom stall at their job because, on top of their day-to-day responsibilities, the headlines are too much to bear. An Idaho Dreamer expressed how numb and frustrated she feels due to all of the uncertainty. Others have confessed that the only reason they haven’t had a complete breakdown by now is that they are parents to toddlers and would hate to upset them.

Message after message expresses the same sentiment: terror. This is not the type of thing any Dreamer can shake off and will likely fester for years to come ― even if a deal on DACA is reached and signed into law. It will take time, and perhaps some therapy, to deal with the years of constant anxiety and the unprocessed feelings of not belonging.

The fight over Dreamer protection is being waged by some of the boldest people I have ever met. These young, bright and kind individuals are fighting for a chance to live a decent life in the United States ― even if it means swallowing the fear of potentially facing a swift and merciless deportation at the hands of Trump’s anti-immigrant forces. They have led sit-ins inside congressional offices, gone on hunger strikes and shared some of the most personal aspects about their lives to show their willingness to do what it takes to obtain a piece of paper that will certify them as Americans. But below that tough skin, underneath the awards and behind the diplomas is untold trauma that cannot be ignored.

There is no doubt that Dreamers are willing to go the extra mile. A deportation force has not deterred us, a database with all of our personal information has not stopped us and anti-immigrant politicians have not silenced us.

We are willing to go through all of this because we know that we are not just fighting for ourselves ― we are fighting for the dreams of our parents and families who worked just as hard to help us have better opportunities.

Juan Escalante is an immigrant advocate and online strategist who has been fighting for the Dream Act and pro-immigration policies at all levels of government for the past 10 years.


The Right to Education: Centering the Undocumented Student

by Claudia López, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, California State University, Long Beach and Mayra G. Torres, Undergraduate Student, Department of Sociology, California State University, Long Beach

“Nothing guarantees social exclusion more than the inability to participate in the right to livelihood or forced to live…under the ‘specter of uselessness’” (Somers 2008:46).

The current presidential administration has thrust the undocumented student into the center of contentious debates about immigration reform. Most recently President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) humanitarian aid program. About 800,000 undocumented people have received DACA, out of a total of approximately 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  The rescinding of DACA is devastating to hundreds of thousands immigrant youth who have benefited from this program.  For example, Roberto G. Gonzalez’s research surveyed over 2000 DACA recipients found that 22% of respondents had earned a bachelor’s degree (Racke 2017). Gonzalez also found that prior to DACA, many undocumented students had dropped out school, but once they became DACA recipients, some attained their GED and went on to enroll in 4-year colleges.

Debates concerning immigration and free speech have highlighted the role of the university as a battleground, often aggravating the fear of undocumented students who struggle to navigate these politics, their personal lives, and academics. Due to this, it is imperative to reflect on the role of the educator at the university level by centering the undocumented student as part of a human rights praxis.  This teaching note identifies some of the challenges that undocumented students at a large public institution in South California face.  Co-authored between an undergraduate student and professor, the teaching note also offers some suggestions by students for faculty members who work with undocumented Sociology students.

Challenges for Undocumented Students

Affording higher education is one of contemporary moment’s biggest challenges for students. But, for undocumented students that are also low-income, affording today’s college tuition seems like an unattainable goal. DACA opens up the possibility for undocumented students to afford university study. Non-DACA undocumented youth in some states are able to pay in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements set by the state, like the California A.B. 540 bill. Despite these financial aid programs, many undocumented students are still unable to secure any financial aid. A study by Patlet et al. (2015)  found that many undocumented youth could not even afford the $495 fees to apply for DACA status  (Patler et al., 2015:3).  Unfortunately, at this time, the possibility for even applying for DACA is not an option.  Another challenge for undocumented students is the emotional strain of that accompanies the insecurity of their status, which can be further exacerbated by the imposter syndrome and feelings of social rejection.  In addition, fearing for your own safety and that of your family truly makes it difficult to complete classes but also succeed.

University As a Contradictory Locus

“On November 8, 2016 I was scheduled to give my public speech for my communication class. However, I stood there frozen, shaking because I couldn’t hold it together anymore. How can I go on with my speech about happiness and freedom, when I woke up to the news that Trump had won. I went off script and shared my truth, my struggle as an undocumented student for the first time. But I was interrupted by my professor’s ‘comforting’ words of ‘do not worry, he is not going to fulfill his campaign promises of rescinding DACA or deporting good people like you.’ I did not know what to make of his comment. I felt invisible and misunderstood.” This anecdote was shared in confidentiality by an undocumented college student. Her testimony exemplifies how university can be a place of struggle for undocumented students. Undocumented students already feel that their ability to truly speak truth to power is limited, and they often hold back due to fear of having their status revealed or being perceived as deviant.  Nonetheless, universities can also be a site of empowerment as well.  As students at our institution have mentioned, class can also be a place where students find courage to speak out, build strong networks, and find inspiring faculty members that are encouraging mentors. The role of the educator is key in these mentoring relationships, where resiliency can develop and students can see their own experience as a contribution, rather than burden, to academia and society at large. Additionally, per each undocumented student that graduates, their presence instills hope for future generations of immigrants.


The following are some suggestions made by undocumented students to faculty members on factors to help them feel welcome and empowered.  Additionally, these suggestions focus how to engage with undocumented students as a human rights praxis.

  1. Faculty could create a welcoming and inclusive culture by sharing about their own experiences and links to immigration and the immigrant community.
  2. Familiarize or create a kit of local resources for undocumented students, on and off campus (such as the campus’ immigrant or psychological services, or local organizations that advocate for immigrant rights).
  3. Visual images that convey undocu-friendly spaces in faculty offices.
  4. Reiterate your availability to meet them during your office hours if they need further assistance. If you do not feel comfortable or able to doing that, then at least connect them to someone that could listen or help.
  5. In the classroom, use materials and create assignments that actively ask students to use their sociological imagination on issues related to migrant populations.
  6. Sociology social movement classes and pop culture curriculum should incorporate the Undocumented and UnAfraid movement.
  7. When teaching themes like criminology, deviance, and power, include articles on the privatization of incarcerated immigration camps, inhumane treatment of unaccompanied immigrant minors.
  8. For upper division qualitative and/or quantitative research projects, highlight researchers that have analyzed the discourses about human rights from the Western Eye perspective and its implication at home in the USA.
  9. Empower students to continue with higher education and integration to campus life by sharing upcoming events.
  10. Provide a list of recommended book by undocumented scholars, or about migration studies.
  11. Help students identify other institutional allies.
  12. Attend faculty trainings and workshop on how to work with undocumented students.
  13. Organize faculty/student-led workshops encouraging presentations on issues affecting their community using an intersectional analysis.
  14. Announce opportunities for undocumented students to participate in research, internships, scholarships, and/or events.
  15. Create a network to support faculty so that educators can better assist their students.
  16. Advocate for access to affordable post-graduate education.
  17. Know the rights of undocumented students and how faculty can deal with legal issues, like immigration coming to the classroom.

In sum, universities across the nation are an important locus for transformation, advocacy, and activism. Human rights should not be exclusive to solely discussing issues of the Global South.  Instead scholars and educators needs to adopt an inclusive conversation of the Global North as a place where human rights are also violated.  Advocating for the rights of undocumented students as a human rights praxis should focus on promoting the freedom from fear. The UN organization assigned a group of experts to analyze how DACA and immigrant human rights were being violated by the USA (2018). As the UN human rights experts argued in reference to DACA, “Ending the programme without a feasible alternative would also send a wrong signal to the population, as it would reinforce harmful racial stereotypes and stigmatize hard-working, law-abiding young migrants who are an asset to the country which they consider home”  (Ferré 2018).


Ferré, Jean-Marc. 2018. “Protect the Rights of ‘Dreamers,’ UN Human Rights Experts Urge US Government.” UN News. Feb 21. Retrieved Apr 6, 2018. (

Gonzalez, Roberto G. 2015. Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America. Oakland: University of California Press.

Patler, Caitlin and Jorge A. Cabrera. 2015. “From Undocumented to DACAmented: Impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.” Institute for Research On Labor and Employment. University of Los Angeles. California.

Racke, Will. 2017. “The Numbers Behind The ‘Dreamers.’” The Daily Caller. Sept 9. Retrieved April 4, 2018. (

Somers, Margaret R. 2008. Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Stateless, and the Right to Have Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Awards – Opportunities beyond the Section


Deadline 4/15/17

The Racial and Ethnic Minorities Division is pleased to announce its call for nominations for the 2017 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award. The award honors the significant theoretical and empirical contributions of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva to the understanding of contemporary race and racism. We are interested in any books that address issues of race or racism. We are especially interested in books that make an attempt to eradicate contemporary racism, either in the U.S. or on a global scale. Books must have been published within 3 years of the meetings (2013-2016 for this year’s award). Books previously nominated for this award are not eligible. Single or multiple-authored books will be accepted. At least one of the authors must be a member of the SSSP in order to qualify for the award, although they will not be required to present a paper at the 2017 Annual Meeting. The winner will be announced in early summer 2017. Winner(s) will be recognized at our DREM business meeting and receive a certificate of recognition.

Nominees should first send a letter with full publication information and a paragraph outlining the reasons for their nomination to the Chair of the 2017 DREM Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award Committee, Professor Rodney D. Coates ( All nominating correspondence should include “Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Award Nomination” in the email subject heading. Once your nomination letter has been received, the Award Committee Chair will confirm the mailing addresses to which copies of the book should be sent directly. Nominations must be received no later than April 15, 2017.

Community Announcements

AAAS Webinars on Evaluation for Human Rights Organizations


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sponsored a webinar series in 2017 on “Evaluation for Human Rights Organizations.” The webinars and supporting resources are available on the AAAS website at

I am a fellow sociologist volunteering on the planning team for the 2018 webinar series. I would be very interested in hearing from any of you who are working or have worked with organizations dealing with human rights issues. For 2018, we are hoping to include more case studies that illustrate evaluations using actual projects and programs. We would be interested both in hearing from individuals who might have suggestions for topics to include—and especially if you are willing to help with a presentation—or have suggestions of organizational contacts who might benefit from receiving notices about these webinars.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have suggestions or questions. Thanks very much.

John W. Curtis, PhD
Research and Evaluation Consulting Services


Check out members’ recent publications.

Judith Blau. 2017. The Paris Agreement: Climate Change, Solidarity and Human  Rights. New York, NY: Palgrave.

Judith Blau and Louis Edgar Esparza. 2016. Human Rights: A Primer. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Rodney Coates, Abby L. Ferber, and David L. Brunsma. 2018. The Matrix of Race: Social Construction, Intersectionality, and Inequality. Sage Publications.

Annie Isabel Fukushima. 2017. “Human Trafficking.” Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks, Gender: War. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Annie Fukushima and Kathleen Morris. 2018. Grant Management Toolkit: Building Sustainable Anti-Trafficking Programs. Office on Trafficking in Persons: Administration for Children & Families and the National Human Trafficking Training & Technical Assistance Center.

Jiamin Gan and Helen Forbes-Mewett. 2017. International Students Mental Health: An Australian case study of Singaporean students’ perceptions. In K. Bista (ed.), Global Perspectives on International Student Experiences in Higher Education: Tensions and Issues. Routledge (Taylor & Francis, USA) (in press).

Katherine Jensen. 2017. “The Epistemic Logic of Asylum Screening: (Dis)embodiment and the Production of Asylum Knowledge in Brazil.” Ethnic and Racial Studies:1-19.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm and Elizabeth Heger Boyle. 2018. “The Global Adoption of National Policies Protecting Children from Violent Discipline in Schools and Homes, 1950-2011.” Law & Society Review 52(1): 206-233. 

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Christopher Uggen, and Suzy McElrath. 2018. “A Dynamic Life-Course Approach to Genocide.” Social Currents 5(2): 107-119. 

Hollie Nyseth Brehm. 2017. “Accountability After Genocide.” Contexts 16(4): 38-45.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm and Shannon Golden. 2017. “Centering Survivors in Local Transitional Justice.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 13: 102-121.

Joachim J. Savelsberg. 2018.“Punitive Turn and Justice Cascade: Mutual
Inspiration from Punishment & Society and Human Rights Literatures.”
Punishment & Society 20/2018/1:73-91.

Joachim J. Savelsberg. 2017. “Formal and Substantive Rationality in Max Weber’s Sociology of Law: Tensions in International Criminal Law.” In:
Law as Culture: Max Weber’s Comparative Sociology of Law, edited by Werner Gephart. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, pp. 493-510.

Joachim J. Savelsberg and Ryan D. King. 2017. American Memories: Atrocities and the Law (original: Russell Sage Foundation, ASA Rose Monograph Series, 2011), published as audiobook, unabridged, narrated by Dr. Bill Brooks; Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins; Release Date: 09-07-17 – Audible by Amazon.

Keri Iyall Smith, Louis Esparza and Judith Blau. 2017. Human Rights Of the People, For the People: How to Critique and Revise the U.S. Constitution. New York: Routledge.

Newsletter Submission Information  Please send the following types of submissions to Annie Isabel Fukushima and Hollie Nyseth Brehm at and To be included in the next issue, please send your submissions by June 15, 2018.

Feature Articles: Articles that highlight research, teaching, or engagement relevant to human rights.

Research Notes: Brief reflections on research studies related to human rights. Notes could focus on the methodology, the findings, the dissemination of findings, etc.

Teaching Notes: Brief reflections on teaching about human rights in undergraduate or graduate classrooms. Tips and classroom activities are especially welcome.

Grassroots Notes: Reflections, stories, and advice pertaining to engagement with local organizations, policymakers, and/or grassroots activists.

Publications and Announcements: Recently published a book, article, or paper that the human rights section members should read? Have news or an opportunity that you would like to share with the human rights community? Please send it our way!


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ASA Human Rights Section Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award

The Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award Committee of the ASA Section on Human Rights is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Human Rights Book Award. The award recognizes books published in the last two years (2016 or 2017) that demonstrates the most thoughtful, competent, or innovative analysis of a theoretical or empirical issue that is germane to the Section on Human Rights’ main interests (for a description of the section, see  Books that either intervene in ongoing debates or fill gaps in the literature are especially encouraged. In light of the pluralism of the section, the committee welcomes books from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. All books must be nominated, and the committee encourages self-nominations and nominations of work by others. Nominations should include a written statement, no longer than 2 pages, explaining the book’s contribution to the social scientific analysis of human rights. The award will be presented to the winner at the Section on Human Rights Business Meeting.

To be nominated, please send a nomination letter and a copy of the book to all members of the Award Committee by March 1, 2018.

The 2018 Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award Committee:

David Cunningham, Washington University (chair);

Robin Stryker, University of Arizona; and

Chana Teeger, London School of Economics

Questions may be directed to David Cunningham.

ASA Human Rights Section Best Scholarly Article Award 

The Best Scholarly Article Award Committee in Human Rights is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Best Scholarly Article Award. The award recognizes an article published in the last two years (2016 or 2017) that demonstrates the most thoughtful, competent, or innovative analysis of a theoretical or empirical issue that is germane to the Section on Human Rights’ main interests (for a description of the section, see  Articles that either intervene in ongoing debates or fill gaps in the literature are especially encouraged.  In light of the pluralism of the section, the committee welcomes articles from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches.   All articles must be nominated, and the committee encourages self-nominations and nominations of work by others. Nominations should include a written statement, no longer than a page, explaining the article’s contribution to the social scientific analysis of human rights. The award will be presented to the winner at the Section on Human Rights Business Meeting.

To be nominated, please send a nomination letter and an electronic copy of the article to all members of the Award Committee by March 1, 2018

The 2018 ASA Human Rights Section Best Article Award Committee:

James Mahoney, Northwestern University (chair);

Gregory Hooks, McMaster University; and

Tianna Paschel, University of California, Berkeley

Questions may be directed to James Mahoney.


ASA Human Rights Section Graduate Student Paper Award

The Graduate Student Paper Award Committee of the ASA Section on Human Rights is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Graduate Student Paper Award. This award goes to the author of the best paper on human rights written by a graduate student or students, as deemed by the Committee. The Committee will accept sole-authored and multiple-authored papers as long as the nominee is the lead or senior author. No collaborations between students and faculty members will be accepted. Eligible student authors include masters or doctoral students who are currently enrolled or who graduated no earlier than December 1, 2017. The competition is open to both published and npublished article-length papers (roughly 25 double-spaced pages, without tables or references) written in the last two years (2016 or 2017). Only one award will be given.

The Committee will select the paper that demonstrates the most thoughtful, competent, or innovative analysis of a theoretical or empirical issue that is germane to the Section on Human Rights’ main interests (for a description of the section, see Papers should be grounded in the social scientific analysis of human rights. Papers that either intervene in ongoing debates or fill gaps in the literature are especially encouraged. The Committee welcomes papers from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. An award of $300 will be granted to reimburse part of the cost of attending the 2018 ASA Annual Meeting, and will be presented to the winner at the Section on Human Rights Business Meeting.

To be nominated, please send an electronic version of the paper to all members of the Graduate Student Paper Award Committee by March 1, 2018. Self-nominations are encouraged.

The 2018 Graduate Student Paper Award Committee:

Claudia Lopez, University of California, Santa Cruz (chair);

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University; and

Yan Long, Indiana University

Questions may be directed to Claudia Lopez.

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ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter, Fall 2017

IIS featured in American Sociological Association Section on Human Rights Newsletter:


Human Rights Under Siege

Table of Contents

A Message from the Editors by  Annie Isabel Fukushima & Hollie Nyseth Brehm

Notes From Your Chair: Human Rights Under Siege
Kiyoteru Tsutsui


Immigrant Rights Under Siege
Cecilia Menjivar

Charlottesville and Our Racial Faultlines
Rodney D. Coates


City-based Movements Seek to Strengthen Local Human Rights Implementation
Jackie Smith


Oral History and Civil Rights Movement: Tools to Discuss Race and Ethnicity in a Mixed Race Classroom
Melencia M. Johnson and Philip B. Mason

Women in Migration
Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects


Section Officers



On the Market




Message from the Editors 

Since we are quickly approaching one year since Trump was elected into presidency, we decided to focus the fall issue of the Human Rights Section Newsletter on human rights under siege with a particular emphasis on the current administration’s impact on human rights. The valuation of human has been clear in devaluation of certain life and access. While imperfect, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under the Obama administration offered 800,000 young people to opportunity to work and attend school legally. Even though immigration has not been resolved in 241 years since the founding of the United States, the Trump Administration has given DACA 6 months to be phased out, and 6 months for legislatures to create a replacement.[1] Racial tensions in Charlottesville and the violent emergence of racist, white nationalists, new-nazis, the KKK, and other hate-groups in Charlottesville, was summarized as there being “blame on both sides” by Trump. The environmental catastrophes are a reflection of the state of the United States political climate today. As Hurricane Maria has left millions in need of help in Puerto Rico, the Trump Administration has consistently illustrated a lack of value for certain lives, condemning Puerto Ricans to a “slow death”[2] as described by Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. These events, of numerous events, have created national fatigue with regards to the ongoing attack on rights in the news.

As researchers, educators, and activists, we believe it is crucial for our voices to be part of ongoing dialogues regarding rights and justice throughout the U.S. and beyond. Our research can help document and explain assaults on human rights. Our classrooms can provide safe spaces for students to express concerns and theories to aid them in understanding disturbing current events. Our actions in our broader communities can help connect our research and education to practice, forging important bonds between academic institutions and the communities in which they are located.

Although there are myriad ways in which human rights are under siege, the pieces in this newsletter converge around two areas: race and immigration.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Ohio State University
Annie Isabel Fukushima, University of Utah

Notes From Your Chair: Human Rights Under Siege

by Kiyoteru Tsutsui, University of Michigan

ASA Human Rights Section Newsletter

Greetings, fellow human rights scholars! I’m honored to serve as your section chair this year and delighted that ASA has a viable section full of sociologists studying human rights. I suspect that many of you are concerned about recent political developments related to human rights. We seem to be entering a darker time for human rights, in which rising populism is eroding the liberal multilateralism that sustained the international human rights regime and hate speech is becoming a routine part of our political discourse. Human rights are under siege, and as concerned citizens, our instinct is to do something to counter the siege. As social scientists, what insights can we offer that would help the public make informed judgments about what is at stake and what needs to be done? Social scientific research on human rights has come a long way, and it can offer some valuable insights for the concerned public.

Even before 2016, various scholars offered pessimism about the international human rights regime, making pronouncements about the “endtimes” or the “twilight” of human rights. They argued that the international regime is not capable of addressing the most serious human rights violations; it is dominated by western interests and is a puppet of powerful nations; and it has too many bodies that only increase paperwork and do not have any impact on actual practices. For them, a radical reorganization of the regime was the only way forward.

While agreeing with some of the criticisms, many others stopped short of giving up on the regime, pointing to the empowering capacity of human rights treaties and slow but steady improvements that the regime has enabled. They document how the global diffusion of human rights ideas empowered vulnerable populations and how international instruments and transnational activists facilitated their activism, leading to better human rights practices in many parts of the world. While the improvement is often small and takes too long, these scholars valued the long-term promise of the regime.

I tend to side with the second group of scholars. After several decades of global expansion, human rights principles have spread to enough corners of the world and inspired local mobilizations for rights. While international instruments might become even less effective in the coming years, the institutional foundations are still strong, and their naming and shaming activities will continue. To the extent local efforts do not wane, there’s still hope for some improvements.

Let me introduce an example to make the case for this view. I recently had a chance to welcome a speaker from Pakistan to a conference at my university—

Zainab Malik, who is a lead lawyer at an NGO called Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). The JPP’s main work is to help vulnerable populations that are said to constitute 60% of death row inmates in Pakistan. Following a Taliban terrorist attack on an elementary school in December 2014, the new Pakistani government reinstated the death penalty in the face of public pressure to take some kind of counter-terrorism action. In 2015, the Pakistani government executed 332 individuals, less than 10% of whom were involved in terrorism-related crimes. Furthermore, many of the death row inmates were the most vulnerable populations—juvenile offenders, the mentally infirm, the indigents, and so on—and 60% of them are said to be innocent. Alarmed by this situation, the JPP embarked on a campaign to make some changes. The monitoring bodies of the key international human rights treaties were critical for their success.

Back in 2010, Pakistan ratified 27 human rights related treaties in order to demonstrate to the EU that it is committed to human rights principles and is worthy of the trade agreement with the EU. For a while, the government didn’t even submit periodical reports to the monitoring bodies, demonstrating a lip service behavior typical of governments with questionable human rights practices. The JPP first pushed the Pakistani government to submit reports by leveraging pressures from the EU. Caving to the threat of losing the trade agreement with the EU, the Pakistani government submitted a pro forma two-page report to all the key monitoring bodies on the same day. That set up a series of reviews at the monitoring bodies from 2016 to 2017. Leading up to those reviews, the JPP and other NGOs submitted shadow reports pointing to a huge spike in the death penalty and the serious flaws in the criminal justice system in Pakistan. Armed with that information, the monitoring bodies grilled Pakistani government representatives. For the first couple of reviews (Committee on the Rights of the Child and Committee Against Torture), they simply stormed out of the room when these issues were brought up. Unfortunately for them, they had many more monitoring bodies to go through. Needing to demonstrate an improvement at the next monitoring body, the government reduced the death penalty to 88 executions in 2016 and 56 so far in 2017. Though skeptical at the beginning, Zainab Malik is now convinced that this series of reviews at various international human rights bodies—not just treaty monitoring bodies but also the UPR at the Human Rights Council and the EU GSP+ mechanism—prompted the government to make those improvements.

To be sure, more needs to be done to reduce the death penalty in Pakistan specifically and to make the international regime more effective generally. Nonetheless, in the current political climate, it is all the more important for us to examine the capacity of the regime and offer realistic solutions to its problems. The regime is facing strong headwinds, but its institutional scaffoldings seem strong enough to withstand the challenges. Support from civil society actors across the globe is ever more critical. Fortunately, all the global promotional activities for human rights in the last few decades have empowered many local actors into human rights activism, producing inspired and effective local leaders like Zainab Malik. Therein lies a hope for the future of human rights.


Immigrant Rights Under Siege

by Cecilia Menjívar, University of Kansas 

A Guatemalan worker caught in the 2008 Postville, Iowa raid insisted that he “had no rights.” According to the interpreter in the legal case that followed (Caymard-Freixas 2009), the lawyer representing this worker along with 400 others caught in the same raid tried to convince him that he actually had rights as a worker. However, the Guatemalan immigrant kept saying, “I’m illegal, I have no rights. I’m nobody in this country. Just do whatever you want with me” (Preston 2008). As we argued in our piece on legal violence (Menjívar and Abrego 2012: 1404), “this man had internalized the violence and devaluation that come from the implementation of the law by accepting and confirming his own self-depreciation. Identifying himself entirely by his ‘illegal’ status, he conformed to the notion that he has ‘no rights.’”

Indeed, the immigration enforcement regime today, which casts a wide net by making it increasingly possible for immigrants to have encounters with enforcement authorities, creates conditions for immigrants in various legal statuses to believe that they have “no rights.” The deportability of not only undocumented immigrants but increasingly of lawful permanent residents (the so-called ‘green’ card holders); the daily fear and risk of detection, detention, and deportation; and the spillover effects all this has on families and communities create conditions for immigrants to feel unwanted, devalued, and consequently believe that they lack basic rights, even the “right to have rights” in Arendt’s (1994) formulation. Under such conditions, immigrants are less likely to demand fair treatment in the workplace, to be paid on time, to get law-mandated breaks during the workday, and to request treatment for an injury suffered on the job. They are also less likely to complain to a landlord about dilapidated conditions in rented housing, to contest arbitrary raises in rents, and to appeal evictions. They are also less likely to contact institutions to obtain a service to which they have a right, to file a complaint, or to advocate for themselves and their families, even when those family members are U.S.-born and presumably have full membership rights.

Immigrants and their families contribute vibrantly to their communities, institutions, and to the economy of the country. But the expanded enforcement regime that criminalizes an increasing range of behaviors and practices associated with immigrants and, under the new administration even undocumented immigrants’ very existence, combined with significantly narrow paths to legalization creates a context where immigrant rights are eroded and their membership subverted. A rather schizophrenic situation is created: immigrants’ contributions are valued as necessary (and are vital in many respects), but as members of society they are devalued; their rights, which should come from living and working in the country, are undermined.

What kind of society is this enforcement regime creating? What does the future of U.S. society look like when an increasing number of individuals are forced to live with such truncated forms of membership? Is the condition of immigrants’ rights today simply exposing the contractions of a liberal democracy?

In no way do I argue that legal status automatically grants rights and that all groups will exercise them automatically and equally by virtue of holding a secure legal status or even citizenship; the experiences of U.S. minorities amply exemplifies otherwise. Many U.S.-born Latinos, for instance, faced with structural constraints and racism, often do not feel like ‘real’ Americans; their sense of belonging (and accompanying rights) is undermined (Flores-González 2017). Their experiences make it clear that citizenship is more than legal status and encompasses rights and membership. And when immigration enforcement is predicated on the criminalization of certain groups of immigrants, like Latinos, there are significant spillover effects that encompass individuals who belong to the same targeted group, even to those who possess more secure legal statuses or even citizenship by birth.

At the same time, under the current enforcement regime, an uncertain legal status (undocumented but also statuses that are temporary and by definition vulnerable) puts immigrants at a particular disadvantage because of the risk of removal they face daily. This condition of “illegality” shapes immigrants’ interactions with institutions in society as their very personhood has been reshaped and transformed under the constant threat of removal and generalized legal uncertainty. While living in these spaces, they are exposed to messages about whom the government will reward (presumably with legal status), the “deserving” migrants while migrants perceived as underserving are removed, and thus they also learn the discipline to comport to such expectations (see Menjívar and Lakhani 2016). Not surprisingly, in recent work that disentangles citizenship and rights, Bloemraad, Sarabia and Fillingim (2017) find that Mexican-origin immigrants in their study understood citizenship as primarily respecting the law and staying out of trouble and in general demonstrating ‘good moral character’; these immigrants did not associate citizenship with political voice or the exercise of rights.

But today’s situation has generated renewed energy in the exercise of “citizenship acts,” that is, activities that signal the political presence of a group through certain political acts (Bloemraad, Sarabia and Fillingim 2017). For instance, lawyers have come forward to coordinate pro bono work to protect immigrant rights formally in the justice system, defending immigrants in courts and against unjustified bans and assisting in asylum cases. Immigrants themselves, too, have organized to respond to the onslaught on their rights, especially under the present administration. A well-known example is the DACA movement, but there are other lesser-known instances, including Temporary Protected Status holders across the country who are organizing campaigns, lobbying the U.S. Congress, and advocating for their right to remain in the country even if at this point only on a temporary, renewable basis. These political acts may not rival the power and resources of formal structures that work every day and in multiple directions to undermine immigrant rights, but they do provide courage and hope and, importantly, an infrastructure to continue this work in the future.


Arendt, Hannah. 1994. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Books.

Bloemraad, Irene, Heidi Sarabia, and Angela E. Fillingim. 2017. “Citizenship Acts: Legality, Power, and the Limits of Political Action.” Pp. 81-95 in Within and Beyond Citizenship: Borders, Membership, and Belonging, edited by Roberto G. Gonzalez and Nando Sigona. London & New York: Routledge.

Caymard-Freixas, Erik. 2009. Postville: La Criminaliación de los Migrantes. Guatemala City: F&G Editores.

Flores-González, Nilda. 2017. Citizens but Not Americans: Race and Belonging among Latino Millenials. New York: New York University Press.

Menjivar, Cecilia Menjívar and Leisy J. Abrego. 2012. “Legal Violence: Immigration Law and the Lives of Central American Immigrants.” American Journal of Sociology 117(5): 1380-1421.

Menjívar, Cecilia and Sarah M. Lakhani. 2016. “Transformative Effects of Immigration Law: Migrants’ Personal and Social Metamorphoses through Regularization.” American Journal of Sociology 121(6): 1818-1855

Preston, Julia. 2008. “An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants.” New York Times, July 11.

Charlottesville and Our Racial Fault Lines

by Rodney D. Coates, Miami University

Recent events in Charlottesville once again remind us of our torturous racial history. Therefore, it is rather strange that many were shocked with the level of hostility associated with the removal of this symbol. Perhaps if we utilized a sociological imagination we might better evaluate this current moment. Utilizing this imagination, I would argue that removal of these symbols, while important, is not sufficient to significantly alter the racial narrative and racial outcomes. If we look at recent events, symbolic victories do little to change the racial realities so many face in our country. So let us first look at some of these symbolic victories.

When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, many believed that the United States was now a post-racial society. On the contrary, however, not long after Obama’s election and inauguration, campuses saw an uptick in visible racism. The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and election exposed an extremely fragmented and polarized American electorate, characterized by deep racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, educational, and residential divides. The recent levels of increased racial violence, harassment, and discrimination coupled with rising levels of stress and anxiety provide further evidence of these significant divisions. In 2015, the last year data were reported, there were 5,818 hatecrimes, an increase of 6.5% from the previous year. In the first month after the most recent presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) documented a record 1,094 hate and bias incidents. And the number of hate groups has increased for the last two years (Bates, 2017). According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose 86% in the first three months of 2017. From 2004 to 2015, roughly 250,000 American citizens experienced hate crime victimization annually. Although these data are troubling, racism in America has deeper roots than these events or either presidential tenure. It is longstanding, systemic, and institutionalized, with far-reaching effects on all members of the nation.

One would have to be blind not to acknowledge that racism is a reality that effects individuals regardless of their racial background. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns of what happens when all we hear is a single story, about a single people, country, or group. When this is the case, we make critical mistakes as we stereotype, marginalize, and delegitimize others. Much of the single story that has occupied public discourse regarding race has focused on people of color; absent from this narrative has been Whites, particularly the White poor. Frequently these groups have been targeted by not only political but also alt-right movements. Such organizing, currently can be traced to White responses to the civil rights movements, has been the focus of much sociological attention and analysis.

The 1960s, with so much promise, were soon dwarfed as the racial state reemerged with a vengeance. The retreat from civility associated with extreme right wing politics pushed the nation sharply to the right. Ultra-conservative candidates such as Barry Goldwater articulated the need to return to the racial state and helped articulate a modern version of the White identity politics. Driving both processes is what sociologist Michael Kimmel termed Angry White Male Syndrome (AWMS).

Politically, AWMS has given rise to a number of quite effective campaigns where candidates have been able to manipulate and capitalize upon the pent up frustrations. For example, George Wallace, during the early ‘60s articulated their views when he declared, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan identified this group as a “silent majority” which was neither silent nor a majority. This “silent majority” represented the disenfranchised core of Americans who rejected civil rights and women’s rights, and were staunchly pro-American defenders of militarism, capitalism, and imperialism. In 1992, Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan tried to ride this wave of White male paranoia into the White House. Newt Gingrich and then George Bush would also tap into this fear, or what Jude Davies calls a “crisis of representation” where at the core one finds discontent by perceptions of being displaced by “others.” The current manifestation of AWMS is being played out in the GOP campaigns with the most obvious example being Donald Trump.

Donald Trump effectively marshaled various White identity groups and capitalized on White angst, anger, and fears with his slogan “Make America Great Again.” As noted by Kimmel, these angry White males in the U.S. often coalesce into political, far-right extremist movements. Kimmel also pointed to a 2008 report by Homeland Security that demonstrated the significant and unexpected rise of right-wing extremist movements. Fueling these movements are notions of humiliation, which can also lead to violence. And we saw this violence erupt as anti-racist and alt-right forces collided in Charlottesville.

The real question before us, as sociologists, is where we go from here? The marches and counter marches shine the spotlight on our racial fault lines, but they are ill-equipped to do more. Critical sociologists can provide the analytical tools to not only reveal, but also point to ways by which these racial fault lines may be deconstructed. Simply put, the problems at the core of White anger and the victimization of people of color are structural. Removing the symbols of this anger and victimization may provide some measure of psychic relief for people of color, but only serves to aggravate the angst of poor Whites. Sociologists can continue to fight these symbolic battles and relish the symbolic victories or we can choose to dismantle the racial structures that manipulate White anxieties—often at the expense of people of color and other marginalized groups. We might discover that “hurting people hurt others” and that many of our policies and many of our actions have only aggravated the fault lines. Academics could also suggest that universities and public sites become more open and inclusive by providing scholarships, training, and access to marginalized people. Perhaps a start would be to recognize that not only people of color and gendered/sexual minorities are marginalized, but also poor, Whites. Through such a process, maybe, just maybe we can provide some healing of our various racial wounds.

Rodney D. Coates is Professor in the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University of Ohio.


City-Based Movements Seek to Strengthen Local Human Rights Implementation

by Jackie Smith, University of Pittsburgh

The following is a brief I prepared as part of my work on the National Steering Committee of the US Human Rights Network’s National Human Rights Cities Alliance. We were invited to send a delegate to the 7th World Forum of Human Rights Cities in Gwangju, Korea, and we were asked in particular to discuss lessons and challenges related to local implementation of international human rights standards. The analysis and links below should be helpful to human rights scholars and practitioners working on this critical challenge of our day.

U.S. Context

The situation in the U.S. for national-level human rights promotion is currently dire. Amid its more public actions and statements that are openly hostile to human rights, the Trump administration recently removed the website, and State department staff working on human rights are leaving the agency.

At the same time, since the Trump election we’re seeing more local mobilization and popular recognition of the importance of local government/ local mobilization for change.[3]

Importance of Local Organization and Mobilization for Human Rights Implementation

The second national gathering of human rights cities in Washington, D.C. in May of 2016 included a panel where U.S. government officials shared perspectives on their work on local and state human rights implementation. (See summary report, Panel 4: Federal Government Perspectives). These officials working under the Obama administration indicated that there is little systematic effort in the U.S. federal government to push states and local governments to implement or to even help them learn about international human rights obligations. Few resources are provided, and staffing has been limited, even within a more favorable administration. Our conversations made it clear that organized local constituencies can be a great asset to help advance the work of translating international human rights obligations into local contexts.[4] However, to date few local communities are organized to effectively perform this role. This is something our National Human Rights City Alliance hopes to address.

Emerging Guides to Local Human Rights Implementation

In carrying out this work, we’re pleased to see that a number of groups have been producing some helpful resources to help guide local implementation work, including:

Other Practices in the U.S. Human Rights Movement to Implement Human Rights

Connecting the U.S. Public with International Human Rights Machinery: The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) is a leading national human rights advocacy network that connects local activist groups with international human rights machinery. It work to compile shadow reports for international reviews of U.S. compliance with international treaties like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and in the Universal Periodic Review is critical to bringing U.S. civil society into the UN human rights processes. Also, USHRN helps coordinate U.S. civil society participation in visits by UN Expert Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs, including the recent Working Group on People of African Descent.

Organizers in Chicago have successfully worked to advance the claims of the Movement for Black Lives by appealing to U.S. obligations under the International Convention Against Torture to help settle the case against Chicago police commander John Burge, who was engaged in the systematic torture of detainees over several decades. Black People Against Torture and the National Conference of Black Lawyers submitted their claim to the Committee Against Torture fifth periodic review in Geneva in 2014.

A Need for Education and Consciousness-Raising:

From this work we note that the U.S. population in general lacks human rights education and consciousness. Few U.S. residents have read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as part of their formal schooling, for instance. And the mainstream media devotes little to no attention to international human rights procedures that relate to U.S. human rights obligations. Thus, there is little resonance of human rights language in popular debates.

Efforts by human rights advocates to engage people in the work of monitoring local government compliance with international treaty obligations have proved an effective tool for raising awareness of human rights and building a stronger human rights movement while also strengthening local compliance.

Related to this work connecting local movements with international human rights processes is the National U.S. Human Rights City Alliance’s working group on local implementation of human rights law. Among other planned activities, this working group has been developing plans to host monthly webcasts/tele-town halls on the Universal Periodic Review process and other international instruments that pertain to U.S. policy and local human rights implementation. The goal of the working group is to help decentralize thinking about human rights law and to mobilize local partners in the work to realize human rights in local communities.

Bottom-up Treaty Ratification: US Cities for CEDAW:

Given the U.S. long-term failure to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, human rights advocates around the country are building a national campaign to ratify the treaty from the ground up. They are working to craft and pass local ordinances to implement all or parts of CEDAW, and so far seven cities have formally adopted such legislation. CEDAW cities activists are experimenting with models for local implementation and mainstreaming of a gendered analysis into policy planning and assessment. Human rights activists have been critical to the work of passing legislation and working with local entities to design effective strategies for implementation.

Cultural Work:

The National Human Rights City Alliance is a new formation (that emerged in May 2016), and we have established a working group to advance national Human Rights Days of Action on key dates such as International Human Rights Day (December 10), Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 12), and the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (March 25), among other days that offer opportunities for human rights consciousness raising. In addition, they are helping raise public consciousness of the UN International Decade on People of African Descent. The Working Group plans to develop resources to support local action on these days and to encourage more media attention and communication about the ideas they raise.  

Right to HousingNational Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty—Helped incorporate international legal standards into regulations that impact municipalities’ applications for federal housing assistance.

Human rights scholars can help play a role in helping advance thinking and knowledge in this area of human rights implementation. The National Human Rights Cities Alliance is working to develop models to share across local contexts to help local human rights defenders learn from each other as they strengthen human rights in our country and world. If you’re interested in learning more about this effort, you can sign up for the national human rights cities email list at:


Oral History and Civil Rights Movement: Tools to Discuss Race and Ethnicity in a Mixed Race Classroom

by Melencia M. Johnson and Philip B. Mason, University of South Carolina Aiken

Assignment Rationale

Even though the students we teach grew-up in a society in which they experienced the United States electing a multi-racial president, many understand that racial inequalities still exist. This understanding often leads to an awkward silence in the mixed race introductory sociology classroom when race is discussed. More specifically, white students tend to have the most trouble discussing race for fear of offending minority classmates and/or professors. The purpose of this assignment is to generate a discussion about race in the classroom based on the oral history of a conversation partner. In so doing, any “heat” is taken off the student and projected to their conversation partner. The written assignment includes a reflection and concept connection aspect where the student interprets these experiences and relates them to class topics and their lives. Below, we reflect on our past experience implementing this assignment.


The University of South Carolina Aiken, a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) is an institution that serves a visible number of racial minority and first generation college students. University enrollment for the 2015-2016 school year included 3,243 students. That year, nearly 30 (25. 4) percent of students self-identified as African American, while 61 percent self-identified as white, (University of South Carolina Office of Institutional Effectiveness 2016). In addition, two-thirds (64%) were women, and nearly all (about 95%) were from South Carolina or Georgia—a distance of only 16 miles from campus. Our sample was drawn from three introductory sociology courses in the 2016 spring semester (n=87 enrolled students). A majority of the students were female (59.8%). White students comprised 56.3 percent of the sample, and Black students comprised 33.3 percent.

Assignment Context

Many students at our university have had few personal interactions with racial and ethnic minority groups outside of limited associations in high school; as a result, students are uncomfortable discussing race and ethnicity in mixed race environments. Stereotypes of Southern life and the turbulent racialized history impede honest discussion because of a fear of judgment. Media reports of racially motivated crimes, discussion of removal of confederate monuments, prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ and immigrants add opportunity for candid conversations about the influence of race on varied interpretations of current events. In the Southern sociological classroom, we continually remind students that issues of racism and ethnic inequality are not just an element of the past, but also a truth of our present. While we recognize that these conversations are not exclusive to the Southern classroom, we cannot ignore the salience of race as a fundamental point of separation that may discourage students from discussing race.

Race Conversation Assignment

The assignment instructed students to have a conversation about race, ethnicity, affirmative action, integration, or a similar topic with someone who was alive and remembers the Civil Rights Movement and write a three- to five-page (double-spaced) paper using their sociological imaginations to reflect on the conversation. The directions indicated that the purpose of the assignment was to provide an opportunity for students to discuss race from another person’s experience. In class explanations of the assignment, we emphasized the point of their essays do not necessarily reflect their own personal thoughts, values, or attitudes towards race. The Civil Rights Movement was the chosen era of oral history because it ensured a generational difference in norms and values of a racialized America. See Johnson and Mason (2017) for assignment details.

The essay assignment includes not only the language of their conversation partner from their oral history, but also an amalgamation of the importance of their own and their partner’s experiences as related to sociological concepts. This use of the sociological imagination and oral history from a familiar elder is beneficial in creating an interactive learning experience. It also increases the value of information, as opposed to information coming from the text or a stranger (Poll 1995).

Class Discussion

The class discussion after the assignment highlighted discrimination, racism, prejudice, and stereotypes. Students often realized their family members harbored prejudicial mantras and values by which they live their lives. White students realized that their whiteness is considered normal and that everything else has been compared to it. White students discussed how their ancestors’ behaviors may have harmed people of color, but often failed to discuss how they themselves were privileged. Minority students tended to discuss their families’ participation in the Civil Rights Movement and the atrocities faced living as a minority in the South. This exercise created an open dialogue about race that allowed the professors to discuss privilege and apply the sociological imagination to make historical connections in ways that students find personal and applicable (i.e., Mills 1959). These discussions were particularly effective because they distanced students from their personal stereotypes and attitudes, thus enabling freer discussion. The hope is that the students reflexively thought about this conversation beyond the classroom and challenged their own assumptions pertaining to race and ethnicity.

We regularly observed three major themes in these classroom discussions. First, this assignment generally makes race based-discussions easier, although some students reported discomfort and fear of negative evaluation of their comments from classmates, in turn not making it easier to discuss race. Second, most students expressed increased connection with their conversation partner because of the experiences shared during the oral history. For many, this was the first time that honest discussions regarding the Civil Rights Movement had been shared, and students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds were astonished by the experiences of their conversation partner (often their family members). Third, and most importantly, students were able to apply class concepts, use the sociological imagination, and develop a clearer understanding of current racial tensions.

Applicability to Other Classes

This project would be helpful in classroom situations where students feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions on race and other topics that are difficult to discuss. This assignment could be used to discuss the confederate war monuments, treatment of Native Americans, and immigration reform attitudes. The key learning and teaching element is the use of oral history to intimately connect the student to class concepts. Consequently, variations of this assignment will likely aid in creating a classroom environment that promotes open dialogue and leads to a greater understanding of the importance of the sociological imagination as long as students are able to find someone who is willing to provide an oral history on the subject of interest.

Our data indicated that students not only learned about incidents and attitudes during the Civil Rights Movement, but also enjoyed participating in an oral history and deepening an emotional connection with their partner, who was often a relative. This aspect of deeper connections to an elder was one of the great contributions of this assignment. Many students expressed delight upon learning about their family’s participation as freedom fighters and gained a profound respect for their conversation partner. On the other hand, some students were amazed to discover that their familial history included discriminatory attitudes and practices against people of color, and that their history had been suppressed to reflect changing American attitudes and values. While some white students shared this guilt in their assignment reflections, we did not create this assignment assuage white guilt.  Care was taken to address how familial whitewashing was a common occurrence and is connected to so many of our own family histories. We also encouraged students to recognize these “unflattering” oral histories are also important and help explain why race and ethnicity issues continue today.

In short, this assignment helped students to discover the complex relationship between space and time and realize that many of the issues of racial inequality in the past still plague our society today. The classroom discussion following the assignment provoked students to question their own attitudes regarding race and ethnicity in the current racial climate. Many students ultimately realized that like their conversation partners, their own race-based attitudes are not simply a dichotomous categorization of racism and acceptance but are situated complexly within one’s experiences, constrained by the social history and attitudes of time and place.

For a more thorough description of the theoretical framework and assignment details, please see the related peer-reviewed teaching note in Teaching Sociology.

Melencia Johnson and Philip B Mason. 2017. “Just Talking about Life:’ Using Oral Histories of the Civil Rights Movement to Encourage Classroom Dialog on Race.” Teaching Sociology 45(3):279-289.

Office of Institutional Effectiveness. 2016. University of South Carolina Aiken, Email Communication. Retrieved June 10, 2016.

Poll, Carol. 1995. “More that Reading Books: Using Oral Histories in Courses in Race and Ethnic Relations.” Teaching Sociology 23(2): 145–49.

Women in Migration

by Institute of (Im)Possible Subject

To view video by ACME:


Thursday, April 27 | Salt Lake City Public Library

In the spring 2017, a pedagogical and community event was organized. Participants were welcomed with the message promoted by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, “Utah is a welcoming city to immigrants, currently hosting 60,000 refugees fleeing persecution, violence, and war. Eight percent of our state’s population is foreign born, with a large representation of migrants from Canada, Mexico, and China.” The video offered here is a recap of the event that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, where artists, activists, and researchers bridged pedagogies, research, and the arts with community engagement by collaborating with the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) – “Women in Migration.”

The pedagogical event explored the political, social, and economic issues of immigration with Session leaders from The Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects—a transnational feminist collective of artists, writers, and researchers:

Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess | Artist, New York City
Dalida María Benfield | Artist and researcher, Vermont College of Fine Arts
Annie Isabel Fukushima | Assistant Professor, College of Social Work and School for Cultural and Social Transformation, Ethnic Studies program, University of Utah

Through film screenings, performance, and a video/media-making workshop, IIS sought to create dialogue and imagery reflecting the experience of women in these migratory times. After a performance by Damali Abrams, “Banishing, Binding, Incantation,” followed by film screenings of Dalida Maria Benfield’s Hotel Panama and Jane Jin Kaisen’s Loving Belinda. Fukushima facilitated a discussion that prioritized sharing stories of migration, modalities, and making connections between the seemingly disparate works on migration. Then, audience was invited to create their own videos on migration. IIS facilitated the workshop, and what became clear was the deep desire and longing participants felt to discuss migration. While contradictions also embodied the gathering, we sought to create a platform of “world travelling,” furthered by Maria Lugones. This world travelling can include violence and the constraints of colonial contexts. It also embodies opportunities for one to perceive, receive and connect with each other without arrogance. We welcomed all ages, genders, and national origins to this timely discussion as an invitation to grapple with our twenty-first-century reality—people, family, and even objects on the move.

ACME (Art. Community. Museum. Education.) is an outreach initiative dedicated to rethinking the public role of the museum. ACME is twofold: the ACME Lab, a physical space for art experimentation, and the ACME Sessions, a series of roundtable public exchanges where participants can dream and articulate new models of education and community engagement through art.

These bimonthly ACME Sessions bring together Salt Lake City’s most creative, inventive, and cross-disciplinary minds—artists, educators, museum professionals, university faculty and students, engineers, scientists, technologists, activists, researchers, and others.

About the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects Migratory Times Project:

Hotel Panama [Excerpt] By Dalida Maria Benfield
Hotel/Panama. 4 to 24-channel video installation, 2010 – ongoing. In Hotel/Panama, multiple digital videos relay a spectrum of moments from the technologies and archives of the Panama Canal, creating a transmodern assemblage of historical, perspectival, temporal and epistemological fractures and trajectories. A series of visual technologies birthed the canal. Three-point perspective, the panoramic painting, the lens, the stereoscopic photograph, and cinema emerge in tandem with the geopolitical and epistemological constructions that effect “America.” These technologies materialize it from the vanishing point of the constructed horizon. The horizon births the time-space of the “New World.” Without the horizon, there is no “unknown” and there is no “New World”. Hotel Panama has been screened in 2010 at Frames GASP Projects Space, Boston, MA at Group exhibition curated by Neil Leonard and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, in conjunction with artist residency at Berklee College of Music. That same year it was screened at Estéticas Descoloniales (Decolonial Aesthetics) Espacio Parqueadero, Museo del Banco de la Republica, Bogotá, Colombia as Group exhibition curated by Walter Mignolo and Pedro Pablo Gomez Moreno, with three sites and symposium, including the Museo de Arte Moderno-MAMBO and SALASAB. Exhibited as four channel video projection. In 2011, it was screened at Decolonial Aesthetics. Group exhibition curated by Walter Mignolo, Hong-An Trang, and  Miguel Rojas-Sotelo. Fredric Jameson Gallery, Duke University as a two channel installation. And most recently it was screened at the Rethinking the Asia-Pivot: Challenging Everyday Militarisms and Bridging Communities of Women symposium at Rutgers University, curated by Annie Fukushima and Suzy Kim in conjunction with symposium as single channel work, also exhibited as 24 channel installation. December 2014.

LOVING BELINDA 2006-15 [Excerpt, 3:47 minutes] by Jane Jin Kaisen
The Loving Belinda project began in 2006 with the video Adopting Belinda in which Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, a supposedly Asian-American couple in Minnesota, are being interviewed by a Danish TV host for a series on Danish heritage because they have just adopted Belinda, a white girl from Denmark. Everything appears ordinary with the exception that the racial and cultural dynamics are reversed. The Loving Belinda Project employs the mockumentary genre, appropriating documentary features to destabilize reality with subversive effect. By staging and reversing the racial “order” within transnational adoption, the works expose some of the uneven economic, racial, and cultural relations of power that are embedded within the practice but that tend to remain unspoken. The videos Revisiting the Andersons and Loving Belinda as well as the photograph The Andersons from 2015, portray how the family is coping now whenBelinda is nine years old in the midst of changing discourses around transnational adoption. In the Loving Belinda publication, the fictional universe is contextualized by conversations between the individuals involved in the project (Jane Jin Kaisen, Tobias Hübinette, Elke Olaf Goll, Morten Goll, Lene Myong) whom in reality are all engaged in critical discourse around transnational adoption, anti-racism and whiteness in Scandinavia.


 Section Officers 

Chair: Kiyoteru Tsutsui, University of Michigan, 2017 – 2018 

Kiyoteru Tsutsui is the current chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Sociology, Director of the Donia Human Rights Center, and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research on globalization of human rights and its impact on local politics has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Social Problems, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and other social science journals, some of which received the best article award recognitions from ASA Global and Transnational Sociology Section (2010 and 2013) and ASA Human Rights Section (2017). He has also published a co-edited volume (with Alwyn Lim) Corporate Social Responsibility in a Globalizing World (Cambridge University Press 2015) and has a forthcoming book Rights Make Might: Global Human Rights and Minority Social Movements in Japan (Oxford University Press). He has been a recipient of the SSRC/CGP Abe Fellowship, Stanford Japan Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and National Science Foundation grants. His research interests lie in political/comparative sociology, social movements, globalization, human rights, and Japanese society. More specifically, he has conducted (1) cross-national quantitative analyses on how human rights ideas and instruments have expanded globally and impacted local politics and (2) qualitative case studies of the impact of global human rights on Japanese politics. His current projects examine (a) changing conceptions of nationhood and minority rights in national constitutions, (b) global expansion of corporate social responsibility, (c) experimental surveys on public understanding about human rights, and (d) campus policies and practices around human rights.. 

Chair-Elect: Brian Gran, Case Western Reserve University, 2018-2019

Brian Gran is the chair-elect for the ASA’s Section on Human Rights. He is also Associate Professor of Sociology and Law at Case Western Reserve University, and his research focuses on actors and institutions that foster and obstruct human rights advancement. Prior to joining the faculty at Case Western Reserve in 2002, Brian Gran was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University. His interests include comparative social policy, political sociology, sociology of law, and methodology. Gran’s most recent work appears in the Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal, International Journal of the Sociology of Law, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Aging Studies, and International Journal of Health Services. His current research focuses on comparative social policy as it is formed in the intersection of the public and private sectors. Gran’s research has focused on the origins of different kinds of authoritarianism in Central America as well as the causes of democracy in the region. His research focuses on human rights abuses committed by state actors, especially the military. He is centrally concerned with both the development of formal democracy, which requires an end to the most egregious state-led abuses, and the expansion of substantive democracy, which requires improvement on human rights in all spheres of society. Gran teaches about human rights from the standpoint of national regimes and democratization.  In a course on development, he treats progress on human rights as one constitutive measure of “development.” He is quite interested in the consequences of populism around the world for human rights and sees populism as one of the major threats to rights in many parts of the world.

 Past Chair: Joachim J. Savelsberg, University of Minnesota, 2016-2017

Joachim J. Savelsberg, past-Chair of the Human Rights section, is a Professor of Sociology and, by courtesy, Law, at the University of Minnesota. He is also the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, dedicated to work on issues of human rights and mass violence. His ongoing research focuses on institutional conditions of collective representations and memories of mass atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Born in Germany in 1951 and growing up when the Holocaust was largely silenced until the late 1960s contributed to his motivation to engage in this line of work. Recent research is reflected in Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur, published in 2015 by the University of California Press (open access-online at Related work with former advisees Ryan D. King and Hollie Nyseth Brehm, both now on the sociology faculty at Ohio State, appeared in outlets such as the AJS and the ARLSS. During fellowships at the Stellenbosch and Paris institutes for advanced study in 2018-19, he plans to write his next book on struggles over denial versus acknowledgment of genocide, with a focus on the Armenian case of 1915. Collaboration with current advisee Michael Soto recently brought him to Belfast, where he learned about the long-term effects of periods of armed conflict, even after a relatively successful peace agreement. He is also learning from work with other advisees: Miray Philips on ways in which religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa process the experience of persecution; Nicholas Wahutu on how African media report African mass violence; and Suzy McElrath on the diffusion of genocide laws at the level of nation states. Savelsberg regularly offers an upper division undergraduate course entitled “Crime and Human Rights,” in which he presents a series of historic events of mass atrocity and engages with institutional responses to these events from a sociology of law and knowledge perspective. Sadly, his research and teaching focus is only gaining relevance in light of recent and current events in places such as Syria, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Darfur, refugee crises in many parts of the world, and populist responses to such crises by political leaders. For more information see: or


Section Secretary/Treasurer: Annie Isabel Fukushima, University of Utah, 2016 – 2019

Annie Isabel Fukushima is the Secretary/Treasurer for the ASA’s Section on Human Rights. She also serves as the Co-editor for the ASA Section on Human Rights Newsletter with Hollie Nyseth Brehm. Dr. Annie Isabel Fukushima is Assistant Professor in the Division of Ethnic Studies with the School for Cultural & Social Transformation and Social Work at the University of Utah. Dr. Fukushima is committed to rights and transnational feminist theory and practice, as the founding editor and co-coordinator for the Institute of Impossible Subjects. Dr. Fukushima also serves as a senator on the University of Utah’s Academic Senate. Prior to joining the faculty of University of Utah, Dr. Fukushima was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University (2013 – 2015) with the Institute for Research on Women and the Department of Women and Gender Studies. She received her Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in Ethnic Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies (2012). Her research has appeared in peer-reviewed scholarly journals: Feminist Formations, Frontiers: Journal of Women Studies, and Praxis (formerly Phoebe): Gender & Cultural Critiques. Her scholarly interventions appear in anthologies: a coauthored article “Calling the Consumer Activist,” in Documenting Gendered Violence, edited by Lisa Cuklanz and Heather McIntosh (2015); a sole-authored chapter entitled “Beyond Supply and Demand” in the edited anthology Human Trafficking Reconsidered: Rethinking the Problem, Envisioning New Solutions (2014). She has written multiple encyclopedia entries on human trafficking, intimacy and race, immigration, war and comfort women, for ABC-Clio, Greenwood Press, and Macmillan. And her general interest publications have appeared in The Essential Abolitionist, Foreign Policy in Focus, The Nation, and Asia-Times Online. Currently Dr. Fukushima is working on her monograph, Migrant Crossings, where she examines the sociopolitical process of witnessing Asian and Latina/o migrants trafficked in the U.S.

 Student Representative: Brooke Chambers, University of Minnesota,  2017 – 2019

Bio not provided.



Student Representative: Vivian Shaw, University of Texas at Austin, 2016 -2018

Vivian Shaw is doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a visiting scholar at Sophia University in Tokyo. She serves as the ASA Section on Human Rights student representative. Her current research uses ethnographic methods and other forms of qualitative analysis to investigate how disasters intensify social discrimination and simultaneously open up new modalities of citizenship and political participation. She focuses on this in the context of the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 triple disaster of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdowns. She also traces the pathways by which the disaster triggered a rise in anti-Korean and anti-foreigner hate speech, along with the nationwide movement against racism that emerged in its opposition. She was drawn to the sociology of human rights because of a sense of personal, political, and intellectual urgency that made her want to understand (and ameliorate) some of the most pressing issues of our day. For Vivian, one of the biggest surprises from conducting fieldwork on hate speech in Japan for the past several years has been to witness the growing resemblance of similar debates on racism, political authoritarianism, and civil rights in the current political climate in the United States. When she first started researching social movements in Japan in 2014, she was fascinated by the fact that activists there frequently drew on the politics of antifascism to critique the government. This was a community of citizens who, while not particularly “far left” or even seasoned in activism, were deeply concerned about what they felt was an authoritarian encroachment on an array of fundamental social and political rights. In this context, they felt that the intensification of extremist racism (in the form of xenophobic hate speech) was part and parcel of a larger crisis—wherein they could no longer rely on the state to represent and respond to their political interests democratically. As she immersed herself within this field, she was struck by Japanese activists’ focus on the idea of fascism and how much this seemed to differ from the mainstream parlance of critiquing governmental entities in the United States, even among progressive activism.  Fast-forward a couple of years to 2016. Since Donald Trump began his campaign and eventually became elected as the 45th US President, “fascism” has all but become a common dinner table conversation for many. Fascism is not just only a concern among activists, but also academics, with many of us rushing to make scientific sense of these rapid and dramatic shifts to our political norms. Similarly, many of these same debates—about extremist rhetoric, what constitutes free speech, and the extent to which racist hate speech exceeds the span of rhetoric and crosses over into racial violence—are all debates that are very much reawakened in the US. One the lessons she takes away from these observations is that a transnational approach to the sociology of human rights, race, and social movements is of critical importance. It is difficult to say if this impetus is more true now than it has been before, but certainly these intensified trends in reactionary xenophobia and social exclusion—visible not only in Japan and the US, but also in Europe and other parts of East Asia—raise questions about how we can understand “rights under siege” (the theme of this newsletter) as descriptive of our national moment and part of much larger cultural and political shifts. The scope of what is “transnational” is further complicated and enriched by the evolving terrain of social media and other communications technology that shape how and where politics are constructed. Vivian believes that in pursuing these questions we should strive to be flexible and open-minded in how we notice and locate these overlapping connections. By allowing ourselves to be surprised in certain contexts, we may develop a stronger analytical apparatus for seeing what might come. 

Section Council

Check out our Spring 2018 newsletter for our council’s biographies!

Elizabeth Heger Boyle, University of Minnesota, 2019

David G. Embrick, University of Connecticut, 2018

Claudia Maria Lopez, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2020

James Mahoney, Northwestern University, 2020

Lindsey P. Peterson, Mississippi State University, 2018

Robin Stryker, University of Arizona, 2019


On the Market

My name is Heidi Rademacher.  I am an ABD candidate in the Sociology department at Stony Brook University, specializing in women’s organizing, and its intersection with political sociology, international development, and human rights.  I expect to defend my dissertation in May 2018.  I am the Program Director for the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities as well as the 2016-2017 pre-doctoral Madeline Fusco fellow at Stony Brook University.  In 2010, I received my Master’s degree in Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies from Brandeis University.  In my doctoral dissertation, I use a combination of event history analysis and negative binomial regression models, to examine the relationship between international women’s organizing and gender policy. My findings show the positive and significant effects of the transnational women’s movement on ratifying CEDAW, with Women’s International Non-Governmental Organizations (WINGOs) and transnational feminist networks (TFNs) in high- and low-income nations and women’s political representation in middle-income nations playing the largest roles. With new insights from my research, there is a place for further exploration of economic development in analyses of human rights organizing, activism, policy, and participation in global civil society.  As a teacher, I have a solid background working with a diversity of students.  My human rights, gender, and sexualities courses are some of the highest rated sociology courses at Stony Brook and Hofstra University.  I can be contacted at

Siguru Wahutu is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department of the University of Minnesota and a 2017-2018 Fellow in the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Wahutu’s dissertation investigates how media fields construct knowledge about instances of massive human rights violations. Specifically, it examines how media fields in Africa construct knowledge the atrocities in Darfur. Wahutu’s research has appeared, and is forthcoming, in Media, Culture and Society, African Affairs and Global Media and Communication. He has also written about global media patterns on the coverage of genocide in Africa (with Dr. Joachim Savelsberg) and on ethnicity and land politics in Kenya (with Dr. Tade Okediji). Wahutu’s current research projects include a comparative analysis of how media organizations in Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda framed violence during the genocide in Rwanda (with Brooke Chambers UMN Sociology), how Egyptian media frame violence against Copts in Egypt following terror events (with Miray Philips UMN Sociology) and how local Minnesota newspapers framed the US-Dakota war in Minnesota (with Alejandro Baer, Joe Eggers, Brieanna Watters UMN Sociology). j. Siguru Wahutu – @wahutu. Dissertation title: Social, Field, and Regional Conditions of Knowledge: News on Darfur in Africa and the Global North. Dissertation supervisors: Joachim Savelsberg and David Pellow; Committee members: Cawo Abdi, Alejandro Baer, and Tade Okediji.


Congratulations to the following:

Joachim Savelsberg is the recipient of the 2017 Albert J. Reiss, Jr. Distinguished Scholar Award, ASA Section for Crime, Law and Deviance and of the 2017 William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award, SSSP Law & Society Division. In summer 2017, he was a visiting fellow at the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University, Belfast. He was awarded fellowships at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (fall 2018) and at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study (spring 2019).

Annie Fukushima was awarded by the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women to conduct a study in San Francisco, California. “Violence Against Women Community Needs Assessment.” Principal Investigator: Annie Isabel Fukushima. Co-Investigator: Linday Gezinski. City and County of San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. Institution: University of Utah. DOSW FY 17 2017 RFP for the 2017 Violence Against Women Needs Assessment. June 28, 2017, San Francisco on the Status of Women – Voted to approve funding. $88,684.86.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation ($396,055) for her study, “Reentry and Reintegration of Convicted Genocide Perpetrators.” Nyseth Brehm also received the International Association of Genocide Scholar’s Emerging Scholar Prize, which is given to one early-career scholar globally, as well as the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Rada Distinguished Alumni Award.


Check out members’ recent publications.

Bryant, Emily, Emily Schimke, Hollie Nyseth Brehm, and Christopher Uggen. Forthcoming. “Techniques of Neutralization and Identity Work Among Accused Genocide Perpetrators.” Social Problems. DOI: 10.1093/socpro/spx026  

Fukushima A.I. (2017). “Human Trafficking.” Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks, Gender: War. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Jerome Krase, and Zdenek Uherek (eds). 2017. Diversity and Local Contexts: Urban Space, Borders and Migration. Palgrave Macmillan.

Jerome Krase. 2017, “Seeing the Local in Global Cities.” In Public Space: Between Re-Imagination and Occupation, edited by Svetlana Hristova and Mariusz Czepczińsky. Routledge.

Jerome Krase and Timothy Shortell. 2017. “The Visual Impact of Islam: A Special Focus on Turkish Migration to the United States and Europe.” Urbanitie, 17(1): 22- 41.

Ya-Wen Lei. 2017. The Contentious Public Sphere: Law, Media, and Authoritarian Rule in China. Princeton University Press.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm. 2017. “Subnational Determinants of Killing in Rwanda.” Criminology 55(1): 5-31.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm and Nicole Fox. 2017. “Narrating Genocide: Time, Memory, and Blame.” Sociological Forum 32(1): 116-137.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm. 2017. “Re-examining Risk Factors of Genocide.” Journal of Genocide Research 19(1): 61-87.

Michael L. Rosino. 2017. “‘A Problem of Humanity’: The Human Rights Framework and the Struggle for Racial Justice.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity DOI: 10.1177/2332649217708429.

Joachim J. Savelsberg and Wahutu Siguru. 2017. “Media Reports and African Genocide.” Volume on Crime in Media within Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology(online). Joachim J. Savelsberg. 2017. “Formal and Substantive Rationality in Max Weber’s Sociology of Law: Tensions in International Criminal Law.” In Law as Culture: Max Weber’s Comparative Sociology of Law, edited by Werner Gephart. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, pp. 493-510. Joachim J. Savelsberg. 2017. “International Criminal Law as One Response to World Suffering: General Observations and the Case of Darfur.” In Alleviating World Suffering, edited by Ronald E. Anderson. Springer, pp. 361-74.

Kiyoteru Tsutsui. 2017. “Human Rights and Minority Activism in Japan: Transformation of Movement Actorhood and Local-Global Feedback Loop.” American Journal of Sociology 122:1050-1103.

Kiyoteru Tsutsui and Jackie Smith. Forthcoming “Human Rights and Social Movements: From the Boomerang Pattern to a Sandwich Effect.” In David Snow and Sarah Soule (eds.). Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements.

Kiyoteru Tsutsui. 2017. “How Do Global Human Rights Expand? A Case of Japan’s Burakumin Going Global.” In Alison Brysk and Michael Stohl (eds.). Expanding Human Rights: 21st Century Norms and Governance. Cambridge, UK: Edward Edgar, pp.35-54.

Newsletter Submission Information 

Please send the following types of submissions to Annie Isabel Fukushima and Hollie Nyseth Brehm at and To be included in the next issue, please send your submissions by February 1, 2018


Feature Articles: Articles that highlight research, teaching, or engagement relevant to human rights.

Research Notes: Brief reflections on research studies related to human rights. Notes could focus on the methodology, the findings, the dissemination of findings, etc.

Teaching Notes: Brief reflections on teaching about human rights in undergraduate or graduate classrooms. Tips and classroom activities are especially welcome.

Grassroots Notes: Reflections, stories, and advice pertaining to engagement with local organizations, policymakers, and/or grassroots activists.

Publications and Announcements: Recently published a book, article, or paper that the human rights section members should read? Have news or an opportunity that you would like to share with the human rights community? Please send it our way!



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