Lauded rights scholar Alison Brysk to launch CLS week on human rights

Renowned human rights scholar and activist Alison Brysk will kick off Week Three’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, “The Future of Human Rights,” at 10:45 a.m. Monday, July 11, in the Amphitheater.

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said that in programming this week’s lectures, his team was looking for someone who could provide a broad global analysis on the state of human rights.

“We’re looking at both gains made and setbacks, and wanting to provide some historical perspective, but also looking forward,” Ewalt said.

Brysk’s talk will be based on her 2018 book, The Future of Human Rights. The Mellichamp Chair of Global Governance in the Department of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she has written seven and edited 10 books on international human rights, including authoring The Struggle from Freedom to Fear and editing Expanding Human Rights: 21st Century Norms and Governances. She has written about topics such as global patterns of gender violence, Indigenous peoples’ rights and strategies for human rights campaigns.

Brysk has lectured in nations across every continent except Antarctica and was traveling in Europe in the week leading up to her lecture. For Chautauqua, she said that she’ll ask: “Where do we stand, how to rethink and what to do next — so how to maintain hope?” 

Ewalt said that as one of the world’s leading scholars in the field, Brysk was invited to propose a framework for addressing global challenges to human rights.

“We’re thinking about the kind of tools we have today, and maybe emerging tools, from forms of activism, to the kind of power that institutions have, to thinking about governance,” Ewalt said. “We wanted her to be able to level-set for us as we begin the week.”

On Brysk’s website, she links a number of resources. She began a 2008 paper titled “Human Rights in International Relations” by writing:

“Human rights is the soul of politics. The essence of human rights is the idea that all persons possess equal moral worth, that social order exists to preserve the essential humanity of its members, and that, therefore, the exercise of all forms of political authority is properly bounded by its impact on fundamental human dignity.”

Ewalt called Brysk’s book The Future of Human Rights one of the definitive texts on global human rights.

“It’s both a sobering analysis of the state of global human rights, but also where we’ve seen some successes,” Ewalt said. “And then, it’s about being able to think more contextually in terms of a framework for how we address these current challenges around the world.”

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The author Ellen E. Mintzer

Ellen E. Mintzer is the theater beat reporter for The Chautauquan Daily this summer. She recently earned her Master of Arts in arts journalism and communications from Syracuse University. As a freelance arts and culture journalist, she’s written reviews and features about theater, opera, dance, film and more. Ellen loves weird niche comedy, psychological horror and provocative contemporary theater. (A Strange Loop is the best work of art she saw this year.) She is absolutely thrilled to be spending her summer in Chautauqua and covering its theatrical offerings and beyond.