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Duke Broadens Framework of Human Rights Center

Duke Broadens Framework of Human Rights Center

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Durham, NC - The university has broadened the institutional framework of the Duke Human Rights Center to capitalize on the strengths of two of Duke's signature institutes and to make the center's work available to broader audiences.

As of July 1, the center is operating under the umbrella of both the Kenan institute for Ethics and the Franklin Humanities Institute. It previously was an affiliate of the humanities institute.

The center is also now being funded jointly by the two institutes and the office of the vice provost for interdisciplinary studies.  Robin Kirk, an expert on human rights who has led the center since its creation four years ago, will serve as its program director.

"The change builds on the vitality the center has established over recent years while expanding its range of ambition and possibility," said Ian Baucom, who directs the Franklin Humanities Institute and serves as one of the center's three co-directors. "The new partnership between the Kenan Institute, the office of the vice provost and the FHI broadens its scope and allows for greater a deepening of the engagement of by students in the crucial experience of understanding and changing the world."

The  center aims to lead university-wide scholarly conversations, programs and collaborations on human rights by leveraging the expertise of faculty in a variety of fields, said Suzanne Shanahan, a sociology professor who also serves as a center co-director along with Laurence Helfer, a professor at Duke Law School.

"We hope to bring law, social science and public policy together with the humanities and ethics," Shanahan said. "There will be more and different people at the table. This represents a much larger and more significant intellectual engagement in human rights."

Already this semester, the center has co-sponsored a visit by Edwin Cameron, a South African constitutional court justice. It is also presenting a "What is Human Rights?" dinner seminar series, bringing in a visiting fellow, sponsoring a one-day conference on the history of human rights, hosting a workshop on institutional changes in human rights and continuing to criticize human rights abuses wherever they may happen in around the world.

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