Human Rights Research & Writing

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 3:30 - 6:30 pm TNH 3.128

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


BACKGROUND: Enslaved Africans first arrived in Ecuador in 1553. Those who were able to resist the institution of slavery escaped, and fled in most instances to geographically-isolated territories and rural areas within Ecuador where they formed maroon communities and free Black settlements. Afro- Ecuadorians collectively inhabited and maintained these territories for decades and centuries, preserving and perpetuating their traditional way of life. Today, Afro-Ecuadorians, who comprise approximately 5-10% of the population, experience extreme poverty and severe social, cultural and political marginalization. The 1998 Ecuadorian constitution recognizes Afro-Ecuadorians as a distinct ethnic group, granting them rights to cultural patrimony and collective territory. Despite this inclusion in the constitution, Afro-Ecuadorians in the coastal regions continue to see their land encroached upon by oil-palm expansion and harmed by attendant environmental degradation. In 2006, Ecuador passed a law further defining the collective rights of Afro-Ecuadorians. On September 28, 2008, Ecuadorian citizens approved a new constitution that emphasizes a "multiethnic, intercultural and inclusive nation," and reiterates collective land rights and self-governance for Afro-Ecuadorian communities. COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course will research and write about the history and development of Ecuador's formal protection of collective land title for Afro- Ecuadorans, and the extent to which the state has conformed with its obligations under Ecuadoran and international law. We will consider the new current legal and political struggles over the recognition and protection of collective title for these communities, and study the ways in which these struggles both reflect and structure racial and cultural identity among Afro- descendants in Ecuador. We will study legal, institutional, political, cultural and other structural impediments to the full realization of these rights, and consider the extent to which the new constitution responds to these impediments. Finally, we will compare and contrast the institutional approaches and obstacles with those identified in a previous UT studies on Colombia and Brazil. COURSE FORMAT: Students in the course will participate in a week-long, fact- finding delegation to Ecuador during spring break. We will conduct interviews there with Afro-descendant community representatives, government officials, NGOs, activists and academics. Upon return, students will jointly prepare and participate in a multimedia presentation through which they will present their preliminary findings and insights to the campus community. In preparation for the delegation to Ecuador, students will be required to write an analytical "briefing" paper on a theme that we will be studying, which will serve as part of a preliminary assessment of the human rights situation in Ecuador particular to Afro-descendants. The 10-12 page briefing paper will be presented in-class and due prior to spring break. The briefing papers will also comprise part of the "orientation" packet for the group and for delegates who might not be in the course. Following the spring break trip, students will collaborate on the production of a substantial, written professional report on Afro-Ecuadorian land rights. ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS. Students must apply and be accepted to enroll in the class, and should submit the following by November 2, 2008 to 1. A brief essay (no more than 300 words) describing your qualifications for the delegation. Please include a list of any relevant courses you have taken or similar experiences in which you have participated, highlighting fieldwork and group advocacy projects. 2. A description of your Spanish language ability. 3. A description of your course load for the semester. 4. A one-page resume. 5. A list of three references, including one UT faculty member. NOTE: THIS CLASS IS OFFERED FOR GRADE ONLY.