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Awards and Fellowships

Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship

2016-2017 Dissertation Writing Fellowship

In an effort to support the writing of graduate student dissertations with a human rights focus at the University of Connecticut, the Human Rights Institute will be funding a $5,000 dissertation fellowship for the summer of 2017.

The Human Rights Institute Dissertation Fellowship is open to University of Connecticut Doctoral students (ABD) in all disciplines from Storrs and the regional campuses. Applicants must have successfully defended a dissertation prospectus by time of application.

Each application should include:

1. Narrative description of the dissertation project (five pages)
The narrative should include the following:

  • What are the basic ideas, problems, works, or questions the study will examine? What is the planned approach or line of thought?
  • What contribution is the project likely to make to the field of human rights?
  • How does this fit with HRI’s mission?
  • How far along is your project? What are your writing plans for the summer?

2. Detailed timeline of the plan for completion of your dissertation
3. One-page bibliography for the project
4. Current CV
5. Include a separate statement from their supervisor on how the funding will advance the applicant’s research.

Evaluation of Dissertation Fellowship Applications

The dissertation project should demonstrate overall excellence with a focus on human rights issues, understood broadly. Projects should make a significant contribution to ongoing scholarly and policy debates in the field of human rights. All proposals will be reviewed and ranked by a multidisciplinary review committee chaired by the Director of the Human Rights Institute and comprised of members of the Gladstein Human Rights Committee.

Application: 2016-2017 Dissertation Writing Fellowship

Application Deadline: March 3, 2017
All applications should be submitted electronically in PDF format to
If you have any questions please call 860-486-8739 or email

Summer 2016 Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship Recipient, Carlos Gardeazábal Bravo

Carlos Gardeazábal Bravo, Ph.D candidate (ABD) in Spanish Studies, was recently awarded the Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship for the Summer of 2016. Read more about his project below:

Carlos Diss Fellowship 2016“My dissertation, entitled “Human Rights and the Politics of Empathy in 21st Century Latin American Literature,” analyzes the political and ideological constructions behind novels that bring about empathic bonds between readers and the objects of narrative. My purpose is to provide a historicized standpoint for the study of empathy in human rights literature, while proposing a reflective stance in that perspective-taking process. I center my analysis on a corpus of four post-Cold War novels written in Guatemala and Colombia, and released by transnational publishing houses in the last fifteen years: Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Insensatez (Senselessness, 2004), Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s El material humano (Human Material, 2009), Evelio Rosero’s Los ejércitos (The Armies, 2007), and Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s El ruido de las cosas al caer (The Sound of Things Falling, 2011). These narratives inspire compelling questions: Who among the people involved in these internal conflicts is worthy of our empathy? How does literature help to provide a more complex conception of victims, perpetrators and their healing processes in both countries? I argue that these novels provide new configurations of empathy in Latin America that disrupt the construction of emotions and their political representations in official discourse. I seek to explain how these political configurations of empathy are confronted with the violent histories of both countries: in Guatemala, with the aftermath of the civil war (1960-1996) and the Mayan genocide (1981-1983), in which nearly 200.000 people were killed; in Colombia, with a society ad portas of a post-conflict era, haunted by the death of 180.000 civilians and nearly six million displaced persons throughout the longest internal conflict of the hemisphere (1960-2016). Is in this context where I want to explore how “the other”–as a subject or agent of reflective empathy– is portrayed in the corpus, beyond binary depictions of victims and perpetrators.”

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Summer 2015 Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship Recipient, Cathy Buerger

“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.

Catherine Buerger is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. She is also the Managing Editor for the Journal of Human Rights and the Associate Editor of the Teaching Human Rights Database for College Instructors. Her research interests include human rights, political subjectivity, democratization, social mobilization, community development, and NGOs.


Summer 2014 Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship Recipient, Nicole Coleman

“In my dissertation, “Horizons of Difference: Polyphonous Intercultural Literature from Germany,” I ask in what way intercultural literature contributes to the re-definition of ‘Germanness.’ I define intercultural literature as an inclusive term encompassing all texts that are written and read in Germany, thus uncoupling the attribute intercultural from the author’s biography. Intercultural is too often used to refer politely to migrant literature. However, I intend the term to highlight the dynamic among all literary voices writing in the same historical moment. The goal is to transcend ethnic categorization of literature and to point to the inherent interculturality of texts that negotiate alienness. I analyze novels that represent aspects of alterity in different circumstances: among neighbors within a community (chapter 1), in the repressive setting of a camp (chapter 2), and the repatriation of the dead (chapter 3). In each case, alienness is connected to the violation of human rights: Neighbors are presumed to be alien which leads to genocide; characters have to expand their horizons through semantic re-coding in order to survive in the alienating political prison; and the descendants of deceased expellees fight for a right to return home. A fourth chapter creates intercultural exchange intertextually and interactively in digital space, thereby undermining alterity. The interdisciplinarity of my work contributes to recent research done in the field of human rights and literature, including law and literature, trauma studies, and questions of refugees as well as electronic literature.

I am grateful for the Human Rights Institute’s generous support that allowed me to complete my dissertation this April.”

Nicole Coleman has been a member of the German section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages since August 2010. Before coming to Connecticut, she taught German language and culture classes at the University of Montenegro and to immigrants in Berlin, Germany. Nicole received her M.A. in Political Science (Development Policy), Modern History and Comparative Literature from the University of Bonn, Germany (2007) and studied transitions to democracy at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic (2004-05). At UConn, her work has focused on intercultural exchange and human rights in contemporary German literature. This April, Nicole successfully defended her dissertation. She will assume the position of Assistant Professor of German at Wayne State University in the Fall semester 2015.