University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Spring 2015 Graduate Research Competition Funding Awardees

BY Johanna Debari


Cathy Buerger, PhD Student in Department of Anthropology

“Claiming the State: The Impact of Human Rights Education and Mobilization on Ghanaian Political Subjectivity”

Does participation in human rights education and mobilization impact an individual’s beliefs about democracy and the state? If so, how do these beliefs manifest themselves in behavioral changes, including the way that individuals advance claims and participate in local political processes? Through the use of ethnographic data collected during 12 months of fieldwork in two low-income communities in Accra, Ghana, my dissertation examines these questions.

In my project, I use a detailed qualitative case study of two communities that have been involved with several ongoing human rights campaigns related to community development. This case study illustrates that participation in human rights activities has had a number of lasting impacts on individual political beliefs and behaviors. In comparison to individuals who have never participated in human rights activities, human rights participants more frequently contact government officials such as Assembly Members and Members of Parliament and are more likely to take problems to the police as opposed to either personally taking revenge or taking the issue to a local authority figure like the chief. They also feel more strongly opposed to the system of political clientelism and are more likely to see corruption as a major concern in Ghana.

I plan to use the fellowship period to continue writing my dissertation, as well as to take a short trip to Boston to conduct research in the Africana Collection at Boston University.

Melanie Meinzer, Ph. D Student in Political Science
Contested Consciousness: Foreign Aid and NGOs in Education

Jordan Kiper, PhD Student in Department of Anthropology

This ethnographic research project explores contestations over the influence of nationalism and the divergent social memories of the Yugoslav Wars in post-conflict Serbia. By interviewing and surveying human rights investigators, prosecutors, journalists, veterans, and survivors of the Yugoslav Wars, this project seeks to provide the first evaluation of claims made by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). The most pertinent claims to be evaluated are the alleged impacts of nationalism on the culture and lives of Serbians and the influence of war propaganda on combatants. The project also documents the contested memories of nationalistic agendas, inflammatory messages, and incitement for conflict during the break-up of Yugoslavia. In so doing, it provides a critical examination of (1) the memories of nationalism, (2) historical and cultural factors that contribute to collective violence, and (3) contested narratives about war.

Angelina Reif, SJD candidate at Law School

The human rights research support enabled me to participate in the Advanced Course on Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, held at the Institute for Human Rights in Turku, Finland. The course offered me the opportunity to engage deeply with existing institutionalized practices of interpretation and implementation of ESC rights as well as practical issues, such as effective strategies and the impact of adjudication. Moreover, it stood to benefit me to expand my knowledge of ESC rights litigation and jurisprudence, and thus enabled me to develop valuable skills and tools for carrying out the case analysis of my dissertation.

Caner Hazar, PhD Student in Sociology

Human Rights Activism in the Context of Political Islam: Opportunities and Constraints on Human Rights in Turkey

In recent years, there is increasing concern totalitarianism in Turkey despite important democratization steps occurring at the same time. Gezi Protests in Summer 2013 erupted in such a context. Understanding how Turkey’s political dynamics and restrictions on civil society affect human rights activism historically will help human rights scholars and activists understand the global negative trends in Muslim and non-Western contexts. The data for this study will be gathered using archives, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. First, in order to document the social and historical contexts in which the human rights activism emerged, I will do archival research dating back to 1980. Second, in order to gain specific understanding of the human rights activism’s development and its areas of contention, I hope to conduct interviews with activists of prominent human rights associations. Thirdly, to document the complexity of activism and its positioning in Turkey, I hope to do participant observation in strategic meetings of human rights and human rights activists.