Rapoport Center Working Paper Series

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.

Each year, the WPS publishes the winning paper from the Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on Gender and Human Rights, an interdisciplinary writing competition organized by the Rapoport Center. The prize honors Audre Rapoport, who worked tirelessly for the advancement of women in the US and internationally, particularly on issues of reproductive health.

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.


Duty to Disobey: Modernism, Autonomy, and Dissidence in the Global 1930

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.


An Ethos of Restitution: Walter Schwarz and the Gloss

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.


Mapping Gender Violence Along the Balkan Route: Humanitarian Assemblages, Securitization Policies, and the Experiences of Women Refugees and Migrants

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.


Domesticating Human Rights on African Soil: Theorizing from Practice

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.


Truth, National Reconciliation and Cultural Interventions: Lessons Learned from the South African TRC

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.


The Production of Precarity: How US Immigration “Status” Affects Work in Central Texas

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.


Feminist Dilemmas: The Challenges in Accommodating Women’s Rights within Religion-Based Family Law in India

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.


The Human Right to Education: Mercosur Commitment and Economic Inequality

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.


Constitutionalism and the Foundations of the Security State

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.


Self-critique, (Anti)politics and Criminalization: Reflections on the History and Trajectory of the Human Rights Movement

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.


Archiving Memory After Mass Atrocities

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.


Translating Rights into Agency: Advocacy, Aid and the Domestic Workers Convention

By Kali Yuan

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.


United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011): Libya in the Dock

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


Wearing Out Arizona

In “Wearing Out Arizona,” Sandra K. Soto describes and analyzes what her colleague K. Tsianina Lomawaima has aptly coined Arizona’s “regressive suite of legislation.”


Continuing Uncertainties: Forced Marriage as a Crime Against Humanity

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.