Title: Seminar in Advanced Human Rights Advocacy

Course Code: LAWS 4903A

Professor: Dr. Melanie Adrian

About: This course asks how can one be, if at all, an academic and activist? Are these two endeavors not contradictory? Are there tensions inherent in pursuing both? Is there such a thing as ‘fact’ in the social sciences? Or is all knowledge socially constructed and historically bound? In order to examine these questions, we will consider the idea of fact through pertinent theory and relevant case studies while pursing our own advocacy program.

The course will begin with the case study of Jewher Ilham, a young Uyghur who fought to save her father from Chinese persecution due to his writing and faith. The following two classes will splice advocacy and activism and relate these to theory in the social sciences that takes up the ideas of objectivity, truth and positionality. We will learn about the idea of positionality and the importance of perspective. We will apply this knowledge to the case of Rigoberta Menchú and introduce the ideas of historical truth and the politics of memory. Lastly, the class will bring together these strands of investigation to apply them to the issue of academic freedom.

Importantly, this class will approach these topics through participation in a semester-long advocacy project. The class will take on the case of two scholars currently facing persecution, discrimination and/or harassment. Students will work directly on research in relation to this person’s case. We will work with an organization called Scholars at Risk (which protects and advocates for academics who have been threatened, fired, arrested, imprisoned or tortured based on their research and activism). Students will work in groups to generate reports on the history and status of at-risk individuals and contribute to advocacy on their behalf.

Please note: This class requires a commitment to show up and to actively and thoughtfully participate. We will be working on projects that have real world outcomes and have immediate effects on the lives of threatened scholars. Students will be conducting research work associated with active and ongoing human rights violations.