2019 Small Grants for Human Rights Research

The Human Rights Institute funds a number of small grants each year to support UConn Faculty and Staff as their pursue research on human rights related questions.

César Abadía Barrero,
Assistant Professor, Human Rights &

 “I have AIDS but I am happy: Children’s Subjectivities, AIDS and Social Response in Brazil”

The funds will be used to translate my book, I have AIDS but I am happy: Children’s Subjectivities, AIDS and Social Responses in Brazil into Portuguese for publication by the Federal University of Latin-American Integration (UNILA) Press. The book was published in English in 2011 as part of a university-wide competition in Colombia that seeks to publish the best scholarly work from professors at the National University of Colombia. It went on to receive honorary mention in the prestigious national Ángel Escobar Social Science award.

This book originated in the interest to understand how Brazil, known for both its deep historical inequalities and its growing role as a powerful nation in the global economy, achieved recognition in the field of global health because of its exemplary national AIDS program. The book is informed by over 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork at four organizations that work with children affected by HIV/AIDS and asks two interrelated questions: what is it like to grow up living with or affected by HIV/AIDS when the right to health is respected? And to what extent has the fulfillment of this fundamental right in Brazil transformed the everyday lives of these children? By building on the discourse and praxis of health care as a fundamental human right, this book sets up a framework to understand both the incredible successes but also the many challenges ahead to fulfill the fundamental rights of people affected by AIDS.

Jorge Agüero,
Associate Professor, Economics

“Can Inclusive Education Programs Reduce Labor Mark Discrimination Against Indigenous Women?”

My project explores whether inclusive education programs could reduce labor market discrimination against indigenous women. I will focus on Peru’s Beca 18, a government scholarship that covers tuition, room, and board for talented but disadvantaged high school graduates admitted to two- or four-year colleges. Using an experimental design, the project expects the scholarship to provide a positive signal about the candidates’ abilities that would reduce the employment gap with non-indigenous groups.


Eleni Coundouritois,
Professor, English

 “Narrating Human Rights in Africa”

The power of narrative to restore dignity to victims of human rights abuse, to solicit empathy for distant sufferers, and to give testimony to the catastrophes of war or oppression is affirmed in most literary traditions. Furthermore, since the mid 2000s and as a result of shifts in cultural paradigms that were shaped by the end of the Cold War, a new subfield of comparative literature has emerged in literature and human rights. Many of the scholars engaged in this conversation come from postcolonial studies and have wrestled with the imbalance between first world theory and third world literature that seems to structure the human rights approach to literature. It has been too easy to use postcolonial literature with its frequent focus on poverty and war as material onto which to project first world theories of human rights. The objective of “Narrating Human Rights in Africa” is to claim human rights from the perspective of artists from the continent and thus to situate the key theoretical concepts in African perspectives. Instead of positioning literary texts as illustrative of points already theorized elsewhere, this book foregrounds the literary texts as responses stemming from complex historical circumstances in Africa and expressed by African writers. Narrative is a means of engaging with historical events, portraying and mobilizing historical actors, and giving a complex account of how truth and reality are entangled. The book focuses consistently on how narrative creates new categories of thought challenging human rights dogma, whereas the sum of the literary voices evoked also stands by the values of social justice and protection of human rights.

Molly Land,
Professor of Law & Human Rights

Richard A. Wilson,
Gladstien Chair and Professor of Anthropology and Law

“Contextualizing Content Moderation: State-Backed Attacks Against Human Rights Defenders”

Until recently, there was very little empirical evidence on the harms of hate speech and the debate was at stalemate. Proponents of regulation claimed wide-ranging harms but free speech advocates dismissed them out of hand. In recent years, the fact that so much political discourse occurs online has allowed researchers to study more accurately than previously the relationship between online speech and offline hate crimes. Their findings have been sobering. Researchers have found a statistically significant correlation between anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim social media posts and offline attacks on Muslims and immigrants. Often, harmful effects are not recognizably direct and social media campaigns, especially those undertaken by powerful actors (including governments) may contribute to a climate of intolerance, violence, impunity and corruption.

The purpose of this project is to generate initial findings needed to launch a larger research project focused on understanding the nature of the harms associated with state-sponsored online attacks on human rights defenders in countries with weak democratic institutions and low rule of law. The larger project, Contextualizing Content Moderation: State-Backed Attacks Against Human Rights Defenders, addresses the impact of hate speech online. Our case study is Guatemala, where there is a concerted state-backed campaign to denigrate and incite violence against human rights defenders. We plan to use qualitative and quantitative empirical research to develop a policy recommendations for revising content moderation policies to better protect human rights defenders from coordinated government attacks and harassment, particularly attacks that use coded or euphemistic speech.