Members of the AAA’s Members’ Programmatic, Advisory, and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC) reflect on the relationship between anthropology and human rights in honor of Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read their reflections and add your own in the comments below.
“To do anthropology is always, in some sense, to do human rights. There is no other discipline that works so intensely to understand the human condition in its all complexity, and to connect that knowledge with concrete struggles for dignity, equality, and justice. This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns seventy years old. And yet the realization of even the most basic human rights seem to remain more distant than ever for so many people. There is much work to be done. MPAAC views the ongoing project of human rights as intrinsic to our work within the AAA, our discipline as a whole, and the world at large. As we look to the year ahead, MPAAC will be focusing intensely on human rights in a variety of ways. We mark this year’s Human Rights Day by offering some of our reflections from our various positions on the committee and in our discipline.”
– Tricia Redeker Hepner, MPAAC Chair
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has laid a foundation for a long and dynamic development of human rights around the globe. Anthropologists, as scholars of human behavior past and present, have been particularly suited to participate in these dialogues as well as be on the receiving end of human rights critique. As researchers of human behavior we are positioned to provide insight into the complexities of humanity that interrogate notions of similarity and difference or violence versus peace. It is through reflecting on issues of human rights that we challenge our field to improve while simultaneously evaluating how our work engages with, for better or worse, human rights ideologies.”
-Jaymelee Kim, MPAAC Human Rights Seat
“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that nearly 70 million people in the world today have been forcibly displaced from their homes. For many of these populations, displacement and conditions of exile have undermined their ability to enjoy basic human rights. Understanding the limits of rights and their consequences for displaced peoples underscores the necessity of critically engaged research. From the extremes of poverty to the violence of detention, anthropological methods are well suited for the task of understanding and challenging the deprivation of human rights throughout the word. Ethically engaged, critically applied, and empathically driven, anthropological research and advocacy offers an opportunity to reduce the hardships of displacement and fulfill the promise of human rights.”
– Michael Vicente Perez, MPAAC Human Rights Seat
Learn more about AAA’s human-rights-related activities here.