This post is part of a series celebrating Human Rights Day authored by members of the former AAA Committee for Human Rights (CfHR), now represented on the Members’ Programmatic, Advisory, and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC). This piece was submitted by Jennifer Burrell, PhD, University at Albany SUNY following a CfHR roundtable at the AAA Annual Meeting featuring DC-based human rights defenders Patricia Foxen of UnidosUS, Jessica Sandoval of ACLU, Theresa Harris of AAAS and Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice. The roundtable was chaired by Jennifer Burrell and moderated by Burrell and Richard Wilson.
As advocates for human rights and social justice, many of us have experienced this past year as one of rapid reaction, a changing senses of time in which everything is urgent, diverting effort and attention from long-term strategizing and programming. More than ever, though, it’s important to be attentive to the shared connections in the ever-expanding tapestry of the Trump-administration rollback. Anthropology can play an important part in this work. In honor of Human Rights Day on December 10th we offer some points and suggestions from veteran advocates for thinking about the roll of our research, and insights in human rights work at this historic moment. Anthropology matters and this is a call to action!
- Storytelling is important and anthropologists can draw upon rich qualitative research. There’s a lot of data currently available, but it needs to be packaged, presented, and verified with affect and narrative in order to be effectively utilized. We need smart strategic thinking about how to bring this data together in policy making and programmatic shifts.
- Our audiences are changing. How do we reach out to them most effectively? Videos, blogs and all kinds of social media prove effective with the uptake of mobile technologies. Let’s train our membership to be effective in these realms.
- Longitudinal and participatory research are central to advocacy and yet are one place where we sometimes fall short. Long-term data assists in identifying trends and matching them to policy and program changes.
- Grassroots and state-level work are crucially important right now; effective change can still take place at these levels.
- The grassroots level is experiencing renewed energy as more people become involved in their communities, schools, and regions. Focusing our attention on the national arena can rob us of valuable energy necessary to affect local change.
Coalition-building is difficult. Keep the end-goals in mind, and don’t be afraid to suggest that there might be better uses for perspectives that don’t serve these goals.