First UT Students in Unique Human Rights Program

 

From Syria to Sudan, crimes against humanity are committed around the globe. For the first time in UT history, students will be learning how to help families deal with these atrocities and bring justice to war criminals. Students also will learn how to conduct research in conflict and disaster situations and work with survivors to identify and pursue solutions.

The Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights Program launches this fall. In the program, students will train in various areas of human rights and earn a graduate certificate or concentration in DDHR.

“Students were saying they want human rights and forensic anthropology, not just forensics,” said Tricia Hepner, an associate professor in anthropology. “Many students have been disappointed with the subdisciplinary divide and wanted comprehensive training. We are answering this call.”

The program, which sits in the Department of Anthropology and has partnerships with the College of Law and the Department of Religious Studies, promotes holistic training, collaborative research, and applied work on contemporary global and local problems associated with human rights and humanitarian interventions. Students will take classes in the anthropology of human rights, forensic science and human rights, and disasters, and will explore a range of subdisciplinary electives.

“Rather than dedicating time to being so specialized that my research exists in a bubble, I will have a diversified education and will be engaged with other researchers and practitioners to address ‘big picture’ scenarios that could actually contribute to addressing social justice questions,” said Jaymelee Kim, a doctoral candidate in the program researching human rights violations against indigenous peoples in Canada.

Through access to first-rate resources such as the Forensic Anthropology Center, archaeological field schools, and research and study abroad opportunities, students will learn how to respond to situations such as internal displacement and refugee crises, post-conflict investigations, and the social causes and impacts of wars.

“Forensic human rights investigations especially rely on archaeological and cultural anthropological input, not just forensics anthropology, and this program provides the practical and theoretical training to prepare students to work in conflict areas as part of multidisciplinary teams,” said Dawnie Steadman, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center.

“The true significance of this program lies in the potential impact it will have on those affected by disasters, displacement, and violations of human rights,” said Julia Hanebrink, a doctoral candidate in the program and a Uganda site director for the Minority Health International Research and Training Program. “Holistic anthropological training encourages responsible research and applied humanitarian interventions that stand to acknowledge, alleviate, and avert suffering.”

Research projects range from investigations into the cultural, political, and economic implications of the presence of mass graves in northern Uganda to using political ecology to assess health and environmental impacts of the Tennessee Valley Authority ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee.

“Through innovative inter-subdisciplinary work in cultural, biological/forensic, and archaeological anthropology, this program contributes to the development of anthropology as a science, as an art, and as a tool for improving the human condition,” said Amy Mundorff, an anthropology professor.

The program coincides with a first-of-its-kind research project at the FAC that tests various technologies to detect mass graves.

C O N T A C T:

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)

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