Winners of the Essay Contest, along with other selected participants, are invited to present their papers during the Human Rights Essay Colloquium. The colloquium, which takes place each spring semester, is an opportunity for students to present human rights papers and engage in open and lively discussion with other students and faculty members.
View all past Essay Contest winners below. Click on the winner to see their paper abstract.
Teachers College, Graduate
Challenges in the Interface between the State, Indigenous Peoples, and Bilateral Aid: the Philippine Department of Education, the Lumads of Mindanao, and AusAID
Nation-states problematically define their political relationship with indigenous peoples as predicated on ambiguities pertaining to the nature of sovereignty, self-determination, identity, and culture. These prevailing ambiguities are manifested in a colonial anxiety that forcefully works upon indigenous peoples. I reflect on the ambiguities of these concepts as they are articulated in choking entanglements for the Lumad peoples of Mindanao within a colonial institution—the Philippine Department of Education—supported by bilateral intervention and the neoliberal politics of Australian foreign aid.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
ope Pius XII, Rights Talk and the Dawn of the Religious Cold War
From the early 1940s, Pope Pius XII began to advance an important language of rights, which denoted a new way of understanding church-state relations, and a new way of characterizing the leading friends and foes of the Catholic Church. His rights talk influenced lay Catholics in both the United States and Western Europe, by providing them with a framework for underwriting both the Allied cause in the Second World War and the Cold War consensus.
Columbia Law School, Graduate
The Loliondo Massai Understood as "Conservation Refugees"
In July of 2009, riot police burned eight Maasai villages in the Loliondo region of Tanzania to make a game reserve—part of a long chain of brutal acts perpetrated against this tribe. It is not hard to see that the Maasai in Tanzania have been victimized, but this paper argues that appealing to the international human rights regime in this type of situation should not be so automatic. It examines the human rights treaties that both sides might invoke, the Massai for the right to life and property, the government for the greater population’s right to conserve the land. The paper finds that the international human rights regime is actually part of the larger context in which the Maasai became vulnerable—compelling both their initial and their continued repression. It elucidates three problems with the current human rights movement: human rights tend to be structured in such absolute terms that they become limiting; individuals are too particularized; and activists rarely tailor their approach to local conditions. Without addressing these problems, appealing to international human rights will only further alienate the Maasai—reifying their “otherness,” and trapping them in a perpetual standoff with the government in which both sides can claim absolute rights.