Dedicated to interdisciplinary and critical dialogue on human rights, the Rapoport Center’s Working Paper Series (WPS) publishes innovative papers by established and early-career researchers as well as practitioners. The goal is to provide a productive environment for debate about human rights among academics, policymakers, activists, practitioners, and the public.
Authors from all disciplines and institutions are welcome to submit papers. We publish papers on a variety of human rights and social justice topics. At present, we are particularly interested in papers in line with the Rapoport Center’s current thematic focus on the future of work.
Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis and evaluated by the WPS interdisciplinary editorial committee, which includes graduate and professional students from across the University of Texas. The WPS committee provides comments and feedback to authors before the paper is published online. Publication in the WPS does not preclude future publication elsewhere; in fact, many of our working papers have since been published in academic journals and edited volumes.
The WPS also fosters international human rights scholarship through its collaboration with Sur: International Journal on Human Rights, a São Paulo-based journal that is published biannually in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. WPS editors work with Sur to edit articles that have been translated to English from a variety of languages. Through this partnership, the WPS expands human rights dialogue across linguistic borders.
To learn more about how to submit a paper, click here.
Drawing from authors of legal theory on racial capitalism, self-regulatory behavior by transnational corporations, and "precarity capitalism," John Fossum explores how sectors categorized as "essential" maintained their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic through a case study of JBS USA Beef in Greeley, Colorado. The paper frames the protracted battle over production and worker safety as a standoff between workers of minority racial status, in precarious economic and labor conditions, and a winning coalition of powerful political and corporate stakeholders invested in the global value chain in beef.
In the United States, the “collateral consequences” of a criminal record extend far beyond the period of physical detention. These disadvantages fall disproportionately on the shoulders of people of color, and on Black Americans in particular. Among the numerous policy mechanisms aimed at alleviating these collateral consequences, expungement – the extraction and isolation of official criminal records from public access – stands out as particularly promising in that it promises to provide criminalized individuals a “clean slate.” Michael Hiestand provides a critical race perspective, through a comparative analysis in New Jersey and Alabama, to emerging literature on the uptake rate of expungement policies in their current, petition-based state.
Miriam Zucker's paper deconstructs scholarly blindspots in discussions of oppressive intra-group treatment of vulnerable persons that are part of minority groups. Zucker argues that scholarship fails to account for the role of the state in the problem of intra-group vulnerability. Recognizing the responsibility of the state for this problem, the paper insists, can then form a basis from which to hold the state accountable and more effectively respond to vulnerable members’ interests and needs.
Rajgopal Saikumar puts a set of modernist texts in conversation to ask, what is one’s obligation to obey the laws of the state that one belongs to? Relatedly, what is the subject’s duty to disobey unjust authority? By providing examples from the Black radical tradition, European antiwar pacifism, and South Asian anti-colonial thought in the interwar years, this paper explores heterodox conjugations of commitment and disobedience to juridical authority.
Laura Petersen's paper, "An Ethos of Restitution: Walter Schwarz and the Gloss" explores the legal writing of Dr. Walter Shwarz, a Jewish lawyer active in settling restitution claims in post-WWII Germany. Through an engagement with his glosses, commentaries written in the literal margins next to summaries of legal decisions regarding restitution claims, Petersen argues that these glosses were also located in the margins of the law itself, bringing a human dimension to what was a rigid and bureaucratic process and ultimately constructing the building blocks for a different ethos and practice of law.
Laura Charney’s paper uses ethnographic data from personal interviews to center on the migrant and refugee experience. Rather than emphasizing smugglers as the primary source of violence, her research implicates securitization processes, state bureaucracies, and anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling humanitarian projects, all of which relegate migrants to a “rightless” zone of economic, political and social vulnerability.
Vrinda Marweh’s paper draws from fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the north Indian state of Punjab. She demonstrates that the state’s institutionalization of women as community health workers has both devalued care work and reinforced its gendered status.
In the wake of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the author argues that a human rights approach advocating economic and social rights (or ESRs) is capable of mitigating economic inequality worldwide.
Focusing on the multiple ways that international human rights discourse is deployed in diverse African locales throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, this paper launches the concept of domestication as a way to apprehend the variety of human rights practice.
This paper explores the creation of the United African Women's Organization and its activist work in bringing mobilization, empowerment, and feelings of identity and citizenship to African migrant women in Greece.
This paper examines the need for and lack of truly durable solutions to the African refugee situation by addressing the insufficiencies of the current problematic approaches and the obstacles due to African history, politics, and humanitariant involvement.
This piece shines a light on law’s claims to authority over transgender identities and transgender bodies, and offers an alternate, intimate account of one transgender person’s interactions with law and society.
Discussing forms of interpretation and implementation of reparation in international law, this paper argues that the current reparation practice at the ICC is not equipped to adequately address consequences of sexual and gender-based crimes.
This article explores alternative ideas of territorial governance and the reimagining of human rights by local communities in Cauca, Colombia, just as they construct life plans and popular mandates for truth, justice, reparations and non-repetition principles.
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee (“TRC”) that was established to “promote unity and reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and divisions of the past” following Apartheid. Ultimately, the TRC decided to focus on human rights violations committed as specific political-criminal acts against specific individuals instead of on the effects of laws passed by the Apartheid government. In this context, Michaela Bolton asks how the reconciliatory dialogue initiated by the TRC could be extended to the people that fell outside of the TRC’s purview.
This paper analyzes how US immigration law exacerbates the precarity of immigrants’ work situations in ways that demonstrate that insecure work is not a function of the neoliberal economic system alone; rather, it is partly a function of immigration law and bureaucracy. Precarious work situations of immigrants in the US perpetuate social and economic inequality, labor rights abuses, and human rights abuses. The extent to which immigration law is the cause of immigrant workers’ precarious work situations explains why changes in labor law and human rights law are insufficient solutions to the issues that precarious work generates.
This paper examines the dilemma that faces feminists and women's rights activists in India who are confronting the gender discrimination inherent in the Indian "personal law" system, according to which the individual is governed by the family law of her or his religious community. Although feminists criticise these laws as patriarchal and in need of reform, many Indian feminists do not want to mimic the secular agenda of their Western counterparts when thinking about the reform of personal laws, but rather seek to accommodate their own cultural and religious identities.
This paper grapples with the question of whether the International Criminal Court (ICC), since its emergence after the Rome Statute entered into force in 2002, disproportionately or selectively investigates situations in African countries in a manner that unfairly targets African leaders.
Arguing that income inequality is one causal factor in the deaths of environmental activists, this paper examines how higher level of in-country inequality increases the likelihood an environmental and human rights defender will be killed for advocating against environmentally destructive megaprojects.
This paper examines the process by which Nicaragua came to pass its most comprehensive law concerning violence against women (Law 779) in 2012, and the contentious politics that led to its unraveling over the next two years.
The trajectory of violence in the lives of women engaging in transborder mobility can be plotted along a continuum where the border becomes one moment and site of violence in a series of violent experiences. Being masculinised and militarised the border becomes the breeding ground for gender-based violence.
Initiatives aimed at combating inequality through the promotion and protection of the human right to education—specifically those of Mercosur’s Educational Sector (SEM)—may have the unintended consequence of perpetuating already existing educational inequalities and, by extension, economic inequality among and within the block’s member states.
The six nations that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—have found themselves severely criticized for the abhorrent conditions that migrant workers frequently face in these countries.
Far from empowering women or supporting the poor, Nike’s rebranding project is an attempt to discipline girls, and the NGOs that represent them, into behaviors that support the status quo, distract from corporations’ misbehavior and expand the power of the market.
Exactly how do indigenous actors elicit the right of self-determination as inherited, and to what extent does such agency reconstitute or validate human rights norms? This essay proposes that within their unique project of self-representation and activism, the Kayapo indigenous society is indeed reformulating the concept of self-determination.
This article analyzes the case of community mothers as street-level bureaucrats who produce the rule of law in their local spaces, within an institutional or democratic mechanism. This case study of community mothers, developed between June 2012 and February 2013, shows how street-level bureaucrats use the rule of law as a tool of empowerment.
Scholars often argue that the culture of American constitutionalism provides an important constraint on aggressive national security practices. This article challenges the conventional account by highlighting instead how modern constitutional reverence emerged in tandem with the national security state, functioning critically to reinforce and legitimate government power rather than simply to place limits on it.
The paper shows that the normative effects produced by San Francisco’s CEDAW initiative are not well captured by existing schematic approaches to the behaviour of sub-state actors, which tend to apply either a linear measure of compliance with international law or some general idea about good and/or bad local variation.
This article situates the fight against impunity in the history and trajectory of the human rights movement from the 1970s until today. It argues that the movement’s early ideology of antipolitics has reemerged in recent years, functioning to defer—even suppress—substantive debates over visions of social justice, even while relying on criminal justice systems of which the movement has long been critical.
This working paper explores legal and policy issues that arise when collections of documents pertaining to past atrocities are discovered in societies emerging from civil war, state collapse, or dire misrule.
This article is based on two months of fieldwork conducted in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010. It is a feminist reflection on the politics of aid, gender, and religion within the context of civil society organizations’ efforts to address violence against women in Afghanistan
The concept of reputational dividends is developed in this paper to emphasize that as nation-states become increasingly integrated into a global social system, the symbolic dimension of power becomes more salient in forging state autonomy.
In June 2011, the International Labor Conference adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (the Convention), the first international labor standard to set out legal obligations that specifically protect and improve the working lives of domestic workers. This paper argues that previous regulatory attempts to protect domestic workers have been inadequate and, although it is an improvement, the Convention is currently also an insufficient legal instrument.
This paper examines Libya’s most recent (and ongoing) uprising—following the largely peaceful popular overthrows of the repressive governments in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt (and complemented by the more violent and still unresolved confrontations in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and in sub-Saharan Africa from Uganda to Swaziland as well) in the first months of 2011
Although the recognition of forced marriage signifies the SCSL’s commitment to actively prosecute gender-based crimes, and may further set persuasive precedent for other international adjudicative bodies, there remain certain elements of this crime that, despite the Appeals Chamber’s decision, are unsettled and unclear. The purpose of this paper is to raise, explore, and assess these pressing questions.
In Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict, between one-fourth to one-third of combatants are women. This paper addresses the problem of reintegrating female combatants in Colombia’s violent conflict into civil society after they have left armed groups.