Human Rights

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Alison Brysk leads the Human Rights research initiative. Her interests include governance issues, women’s rights, and human migration, and she also specializes in Latin American studies with an emphasis on indigenous rights.
Rights and Governance

Much of my current work has focused on human rights at the level of institutions, actors, and claimants, from the globalization of legal regimes of enforcement and accountability all the way down to extensive, fieldwork-based analysis of human rights campaigns. Earlier work explored the protection of human rights among democracies confronted with the post-9/11 threat of terror. To facilitate my own and others' research and activism, I maintain a human rights resources portal containing links to extensive libraries, archives, and other online resources useful to scholars, teachers, and activists worldwide.


"Speaking Rights" to the COVID-19 Crisis
A series of activities across multiple venues explores potentials of, threats to, and challenges for human rights in the face of of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pandemic patriarchy: regulation, access, and governance in reproductive rights," with Miguel Fuentes Carreño. Open Global Rights, September 2020. More
“Why Feminism Is Good For Your Health,” with Miguel Fuentes Carreño. New Security Beat, August 2020. More
Interview: “The COVID Pandemic and Human Rights,” Instituto do Estudiais Sociales y Politicos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, August 6, 2020. More
“The Other Epidemic: Human rights abuse and dehumanization.” Learning During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Reflection Series From the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace, June 2020. More
Coordinator, “Ground Truth Briefing: A pandemic of violence—A Global Discussion of COVID-19 and Trends in Gender Violence.” Woodrow Wilson Center, May 28, 2020.

Expanding Human Rights: 21st Century Norms and Governance
A group of scholars analyze the mobilization of new rights actors, claims, institutions and modes of accountability, with balanced attention to civil-political and social-economic rights. The volume I co-edited with Michael Stohl was published by Edward Elgar in January 2017. More

The Politics of the Globalization of Law
This empirical case research asks how the globalization of law and the emergence of multiple and shifting venues of legal accountability enhance or evade the fulfillment of international human rights. An edited volume was published in 2013 by Routledge. More

Speaking Rights to Power
A comprehensive case study of human rights campaigns based on twenty years of research and fieldwork worldwide, and engaging communication politics analysis to address current debates on cosmopolitanism, charismatic leadership, framing, political theater, and the role of social media. Published by Oxford University Press in 2013. More

In a 2017 article for PS, the magazine of the American Political Science Association, I argue that there are three ways that scholars of social science can and must speak rights: analyzing and disseminating the lessons of global history, fostering communicative action by and for democratic movements, and deepening civic education within and beyond the academy.

National Insecurity and Human Rights
Asking how democracies can cope with the threat of terror while protecting human rights, this volume compares the lessons of the United States and Israel with the "best-case scenarios” of Canada and three European countries. A 2007 publication co-edited with Gershon Shafir is available from the GAIA/eScholarship archive of UC Press. More

Women's Rights
UN Rapporteur Yakin Ertuk listens to a veiled woman

I have been tracing the varying strategies and successes of information politics to gain recognition of women's human rights in foreign policy. The goal is to map “best practices” for mobilizing the international human rights regime by framing different forms of violence against women as a human rights problem and designing campaigns that bridge the complex power relations of gender justice.


Womanstats Project
I am a co-Principal Investigator and team member with this donor-funded research and database project, the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women in the world. Womanstats collects detailed statistical data on the status of women worldwide and connects this information with data on the security of states. More

Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow 2013-2014
As part of the Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative I led a project titled "Women's Rights as Human Rights: Constructing Political Will" investigating how ‘communication power’ in human rights campaigns can mobilize political will to address previously hidden or naturalized violence against women worldwide. More

Latin America
indigenous protest banner, Quintana Roo, Mexico

From Tribal Village to Global Village
This research investigates the unexpected impact of the Indian rights movement on world politics, using case studies from Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Bolivia to analyze the implications of these experiences for all of Latin America’s 40 million indigenous citizens and native people throughout the world. Published in 2000 by Stanford. More

De la tribu a la aldea global
2009 Spanish language translation, published by Edicions Bellaterra, of my 2000 book From Tribal Village to Global Village. More

Human Migration
UN human trafficking archive photo

Some of my research has focused specifically on the human rights and governance dimensions of the increased human mobility that is associated with globalization, be it in the form of human trafficking or the displacements that arise with different motivators and patterns of migration. 


From Human Trafficking to Human Rights
This project argues the necessity of reframing human trafficking as a matter of human rights and social justice, rooted in larger structural issues relating to the global economy, human security, U.S. foreign policy, and labor and gender relations. A volume coedited with Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick was published in 2011 by Penn Press. More

People Out of Place
Globalization pushes people "out of place" -- across borders, out of traditions, into markets, and away from the rights of national citizenship. But globalization also contributes to the spread of international human rights ideas and institutions. A group of scholars analyze diverse impacts of these contradictory trends in a volume I co-edited with Gershon Shafir, published in 2004 by Routledge. More