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Human Rights PhD Triangle conference

15th January 2016

Report by Rebekah Larsen

On 15 January 2016, the Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR) hosted a PhD Research Triangle event with students from Cambridge, the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, and LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights. Under the broad theme of ‘human rights’, researchers presented diverse and intriguing work from the fields of law, the social and political sciences, and even English literature.

This graduate conference, in its fifth year, was divided into three sessions. At the end of each session, a respondent (from one of the three participating institutions) facilitated discussion among the participants as well as providing poignant and insightful feedback directly to the presenters.

The first session, ‘Politics of Design: Institutions and Human Rights’, featured three presenters, one from each institution. Cora Lacatus (LSE) presented her work on global patterns of design with regard to human rights institutions, examining how national-level design influences the strength of the institution. Michael Dafel (Cambridge) discussed the development of a constitutional right to participation within South African political parties. Emily Helms (Essex) explored the role of language in creating successful peacekeeping mandates.

The second session, ‘Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Narratives’, began with an examination by Stefan Theil (Cambridge) of the disconnect between pollution minimums and legal mechanisms in the context of the right to health. Tabitha Kahn (Essex) then explored the concept of ‘limited personhood’ and the impact on human rights in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Jessica Eichler (Essex) presented her work on indigenous rights in Bolivia, exploring the impact of entrenched power structures and language barriers.

The third and final session, ‘Convergence and Conflict Between National and International Legal Frameworks’, consisted of two presentatitions. Pilar Elizalde (LSE) presented her research into states’ use of women’s rights claims in the Universal Periodic Review. Rebecca Cordell (Essex) introduced her work into the causes and dynamics of international cooperation on rendition, looking at flight data post 9/11.

The purpose of the Triangle, as a shared initiative between these three universities, is to encourage wide participation and collaboration by PhD students working in human rights and related areas across multiple disciplines. Given the research presented, the connections forged, and the plans for another Triangle event in late 2016, these goals were well met at the January 2016 conference.

Below is a full list of presentations from the event.

Session I: Politics of Design: Institutions and Human Rights

Respondent: Dr Ahmed Shaheed (Essex)

  • Cora Lacatus (LSE): ‘The Strength of National Human Rights Institutions: A Study of Global Patterns of Institutional Design’

  • Michael Dafel (Cambridge): ‘The Influence of the South African Constitution on the Internal Operations of Political Parties: From Private Associations to Duty-bound Constitutional Actors’ 

  • Emily Helms (Essex): ‘Peacekeeping Mandates’

Session II: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Narratives

Respondent: Dr Chetan Bhatt (LSE)

  • Stefan Theil (Cambridge): ‘Sketching the Environmental Minimum’

  • Tabitha Kahn (Essex): ‘“... am I a monster or am I myself a victim?’: Criminality and Depersonalized Persons in Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment’

  • Jessika Eichler (Essex): ‘Prior consultation and beyond: indigenous peoples’ rights in the Bolivian lowlands’

Session III: Convergence and Conflict Between National and International Legal Frameworks

Respondent: Dr Sharath Srinivasan (Cambridge)

  • Pilar Elizalde (LSE): ‘Testing the Universal Acceptance of Women’s Human Rights: A Study of their Promotion in the Universal Periodic Review’ 

  • Rebecca Cordell (Essex): ‘Coding and Classifying Rendition Flights: Foreign Complicity Post-9/11’