2017 Small Grants for Human Rights Research

Congratulations to the UConn Faculty Who Have Received Funding to Advance Their Human Rights Research Project


Brenick headshot

Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies

Evaluations of school-based rights violations of transgender and gender non-conforming youth: A social ecological perspective


Transgender and gender non-conforming (T&GN) youth face shockingly high rates of discriminatory victimization in school1,2. To combat the many negative results of this victimization, researchers and policy makers have charged schools to create school climates inclusive of and safe for T&GN students; yet, implementation and effectiveness of these school-based strategies varies greatly3,4. Social-ecological models highlight the importance of multiple sources of influence (e.g., students, school staff, and parents) on school interventions5,6. Social and moral reasoning approaches cite that the manner in which one reasons about rights violations directly relates to one’s support of enacting change in response to those violations7,8. Taken together, these approaches posit that it is critical to understand the constellation of mis/matches between students’, school staff’s, and parents’ social and moral reasoning about the discriminatory rights violations experienced by T&GN students to understand schools’ differing success rates in developing inclusive and safe climates for T&GN youth. This mixed-method study surveys high school students, their parents, and school staff on their evaluations of rights violations experienced by T&GN students, and their perceptions of school climate and the implementation and effectiveness of school interventions. Findings will identify patterns of reasoning across the school social-ecologies that best facilitate inclusive and safe school climates.


Chapman Audrey

Audrey R. Chapman

Healey Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities

Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, UConn Health

Impact of Privatization on the Right to Health in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka has had a state funded health care system with near universal coverage for several decades.  Its health system has been recognized internationally since the 1970s as a model of what is possible for a relatively poor country with a commitment to a right to health care can provide with a relatively modest investment in health services.  These achievements are being threatened by the growth of a private health care sector which requires payment at the point of delivery, and these are mostly out-of-pocket expenditures.  Elsewhere the growth of the private sector has provided patients with greater choice, but the two-tier system has led to inequities in services and outcomes.  The grant will help fund a trip to Sri Lanka to collect data on the Sri Lankan health system for the first stage of a project to be conducted collaboratively with the Department of Community Medicine in the University of Peradeniya in Kandy to determine (1) the factors encouraging the development of private health sector; (2) the scope and composition of the private health facilities and the services offered therein; (3) whether there are data regarding patterns of  privatized behavior in the public sector; (4) which groups are using private health facilities and for what kinds of purposes; (5) whether there are differences in private sector utilization between urban and rural areas and among economic groups;  and (6) the impact of private sector utilization on health costs and household income.


Debanuj  DasGupta

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography & Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies

The Politics of Transgender Detention



The rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and detainees is presently a hotly contested issue. Recent changes to immigration law calls for heightened detention and deportation of immigrants. The detention and deportation process is rife with contradictions between sovereign law and internationally accepted human rights standards. This project seeks to document the experiences of transgender detainees who are fleeing gender based persecution from their countries of origin. I will be conducting collaborative ethnography with FAMILIA TQLM (Transgender anti-detention organization based in LA) and the Transgender Law Center in order to document the tortures faced by transgender detainees within detention centers in New York and Los Angeles metropolitan area. In doing so, the project will highlight innovative community based human rights interventions that are being designed by Transgender activist formations.


Barbara Gurr

Barbara Gurr

Associate Professor In Residence, Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Mni Wiconi: The Meaning of “Rights” at Standing Rock


The gathering of water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota grew to be the largest environmental protest in US history, the largest gathering of indigenous peoples the world has seen in recorded history, and the first time the seven council fires of the Lakota Nation have come together in such numbers since the Sundance of 1876 that drew them to the Bighorn Mountains and ultimately the battle in which General Armstrong Custer was so famously defeated. Events at Standing Rock have inserted conceptualizations of indigeneity into public, political, and academic conversations around civil and human rights, environmental injustice, the militarization of police, and the rule of law. However, the meanings of these in a settler state such as the US, and the intersections of rights, identity, and history upon which these meanings rely, require thoughtful, informed clarification. Prevailing conceptualizations of human rights, cultural rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty in both popular and scholarly discourses remain heavily politicized, deeply divisive, and at times unclear, even for scholars in these areas. As the Seven Council Fires of the Oglala Lakota, represented by Standing Rock and its neighbor Cheyenne River Reservation, increasingly turn their attention to protecting their rights in the court system, civil rights, treaty rights, and the underlying support offered by human, cultural, and indigenous rights instruments provide a potential scaffold upon which to build a future that recognizes, rather than elides, the distinctiveness of indigenous peoples’ rights in the US. However, the fruitfulness of this effort relies heavily on our ability to understand and articulate the intersections of numerous rights frameworks. This project addresses that need.


Mark Overmyer-Velazquez at Contested Citizenship Conference University of Connecticut

Mark Overmyer-Velazquez

Associate Professor, Department of History

Hauntings and Human Rights: Immigration in Post-Pinochet Chile


I will use my HRI faculty research grant funds to support a trip to Santiago, Chile where I will conduct archival research for a new project examining human rights and immigration in Post-Pinochet Chile. In my study, “Hauntings and Human Rights: Immigration in Post-Pinochet Chile”, I consider the theoretical and practical frame of human rights as a potent guide for immigration reform in contemporary Chile. Debates over human rights and memory following the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) have been a vital part of political and popular discourses in Chile. Placed in a historical context of racialized state formation in Chile, my research examines how political activists at the local and regional levels have strategically utilized these discourses to force national leaders to rethink categories of legal status for the country’s newly arrived minority populations. “Hauntings and Human Rights” will be part of a collaborative volume, Migration, Minorities and Human Rights: Democratic Transitions in Latin America and the Arab World. With Dr. Zaid Eyadat (Human Rights and Political Science, UConn & Political Science, University of Jordan), the volume examines how transitions to democracy engage minority populations and how minorities themselves play major roles in those transitions in Latin America and the Arab world. Grounded in longstanding historical relations and contemporary political, cultural and social similarities between the two regions, our study brings together leading scholars of and from both regions to contribute their work on comparative studies of immigrant and other minority populations.


For more information about funding available to UConn Faculty please visit our webiste, http://humanrights.uconn.edu/faculty-funding-opportunities/