News: Featured Stories

March 1, 2019

UMass Boston human rights faculty, students write new book


  • Boston
Book's contributors are all from UMass Boston

Labor Resource Center Director Steve Striffler had only been working at UMass Boston a few weeks when he was asked to write a chapter for the book Approaches to Human Rights: History, Politics, Practice.

At a celebration last week of the book’s launch, Striffler jokingly shared that he thought this might be the norm, but those in attendance acknowledged it is rare for an entire school community to come together to produce a book.

Edited by Honors College Dean Rajini Srikanth and Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Elora Chowdhury, the book touches on a wide range of human rights topics, including the emergence of Latin American solidarity, the education of displaced children in refugee camps, and how to talk about sexual violence and sexual agency in film. All of the contributors are from UMass Boston, and include a mix of faculty, doctoral students, undergraduate students, and activists.

“It is hard to think of another topic more important than this right now,” Interim Chancellor Katherine S. Newman said during the book launch party. “We are not exactly living in an era in which human rights are at the forefront of everybody’s minds or behavior. It’s hard to imagine when it’s been worse than it is right now, so I’m immensely proud to be related to faculty who have taken this on as a passion and are there to show the rest of the world the values that you stand by, that the campus stands by, and that the whole world ought to stand by.”

Srikanth, above left with Chowdhury, said that UMass Boston’s human rights minor, launched four years ago, was the impetus for the book.

“The minor has its origins in a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, and community activists who formed a working group nearly 20 years ago to examine human rights issues that were local and global. We have held true to the foundational ideals of the Human Rights Working Group, and we, therefore, felt we had a compelling story to tell about the richness of our human rights minor,” Srikanth said.

The book is intended for human rights scholars and those who research and practice human rights, and fills a hole in the marketplace. It draws from case studies and includes oral histories from a wide range of contexts in the Global South, including Australia, India, Mexico, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

“Within the field of human rights studies, this book attends to the critical academic gap on interdisciplinary and praxis-based approaches to the field, as opposed to a predominantly legalistic focus,” Chowdhury said.

Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Chris Bobel, above, used her chapter on the mis/use of human rights discourse in development campaigns to help her prepare for her new book, The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South.

“It was professionally really useful to me and intellectually stimulating, and I’m just proud to be part of something that we at UMass Boston have created. That’s the first time I’ve ever done it. I’ve never published with my colleagues before,” Bobel said. “That alone is just such a source of pride for me.”

For students like Grace Furtado, a student in UMass Boston’s Transnational, Cultural, and Community Studies master’s program, the book represented a chance to connect her personal and professional life.

“That’s kind of the purpose of us getting an education, right, to connect what we learn here to our communities in order to facilitate change,” Furtado said.

Approaches to Human Rights: History, Politics, Practice is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Next week, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department will host a book party for this and four other books published by faculty between October 2018 and May 2019. That book party is Thursday, March 7 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge.