UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Center for the Humanities

Past Faculty Development Seminars
Fall 2016: Human Rights and Refugees

Fall 2016: Human Rights and Refugees: Understanding the Global Refugee/Displaced Persons Crisis through History, Politics, Law, and Literature

Led by Heinz Klug (Law; Global Legal Studies Center)
and Helen Kinsella (Political Science; Gender & Women's Studies)

This Fall 2016 seminar is open only to accepted participants. The seminar will be ten sessions long (time and day will be set in consultation with seminar members), with approximately fifty pages of reading per session (please see “Readings” below).

Seminar Description
The formal United Nations definition of a refugee is an individual who crosses an international boundary seeking refuge “due to a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion and/or fleeing from a serious threat to life and liberty.” This definition and understanding is increasingly at odds with what is widely acknowledged today to be a global refugee crisis not witnessed in its scope and consequences since the end of World War II. Forced to flee from conflict, violence, deprivation, and disasters, there is an increasing flow of people moving within and across borders while already there is an approximately 42 million people who remain without permanent residence or effective recognition of their rights. The growing threat of climate change, with rising sea levels, increasing droughts and other extreme weather patterns will only increase the magnitude of refugee flows. These developments pose numerous challenges to international organizations, governments, communities, and to the individuals who find themselves uprooted from their homes and their sources of sustenance for basic needs, social solidarity and culture. Mapped onto a human rights framework these challenges raise many conceptual and empirical questions that need urgent attention.

While it is possible to point to a number of specific post-1989 conflicts that have produced new flows of refugees, the broad scope and increasing magnitude of migration and internal displacement since the end of the cold war is challenging the legal, political and social definitions that distinguished refugees and other migrants in the post-World War II era. Regardless of the United Nations framework, the flow of migrants from south of the U.S. border (whether seeking economic opportunity, fleeing criminal violence or political conflict) or into the European Union (from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other lands across the middle east) as well as massive movements of people across Africa, involving internal displacement within nation-states or across African boundaries and even into Europe, continues to grow. At the same time there are refugee or displaced persons camps across the globe that have become all but permanent, where up to three generations of people have been born and live in a condition of statelessness.

This faculty development seminar, will address these problems by considering the history, theories and concepts that relate to the question of refugees and displaced persons as well as considering some specific cases. Our goal is to view the question of refugees through different disciplinary lenses and to consider questions that might be raised by scholars across campus.


Summer Reading

Week 1 (9/16): Introduction

Week 2 (9/23): Regional and International Systems of Protection

Week 3 (9/30): Theory

Week 4 (10/7): Global and State Approaches

Week 5 (10/14): Statelessness

Week 6 (10/21): Internal and Conflict Induced Displacement

Week 7 (10/28): Gender

Week 8 (11/4): Camps

Week 9 (11/11): Environment

Week 10 (11/18): The United States

Program Description
With major support from the Office of the Dean of the College of Letters & Science, the Center for the Humanities and the Institute for Research in the Humanities jointly sponsor and administer the Faculty Development Seminars in the Humanities, which enable an individual tenured faculty member or a team of two tenured faculty members to lead a seminar on a topic of broad interest across the humanities. Seminar leaders receive a one-course release for directing a seminar of other faculty members who meet ten times during a semester in two-hour sessions, and their departments receive funds for a replacement lecturer. The Faculty Development Seminar program provides research funds of $500 to ten faculty members to participate in the seminar.


See here for information about participating in the seminar. Applications submitted by Monday, June 6, 2016 will receive full consideration for a $500 stipend for allowable research expenses. Additional inquiries may be submitted up to the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.