The New Connecticut / Baden-Württemberg Human Rights Research Consortium: Cutting-Edge Scholarship across the Atlantic

At a time when international travel is coming to a standstill and people are quarantined in their homes, a newly created consortium is bringing together researchers from leading centers of human rights research in Connecticut and the German State of Baden-Württemberg. Since December 2019, Professors Sebastian Wogenstein and Katharina von Hammerstein (both German Studies, UConn) have built a new innovative interdisciplinary, interinstitutional and international forum that connects researchers on both sides of the Atlantic and supports collaborative projects in human rights research: the Connecticut/Baden Württemberg Human Rights Research Consortium.

Research on human rights is an emerging field of study that brings together various disciplines. What was originally a key question for law studies and philosophy, attracts more and more researchers from disciplines such as anthropology, literary studies, and history as well as economics, political science, business, engineering, natural and life sciences and many more.

The State of Connecticut and the German state of Baden-Württemberg have been partner states for nearly 30 years. Both states are home to  centers that are global leaders in human rights research, such as the Human Rights Institute (HRI) of the University of Connecticut, Yale University and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). This transatlantic consortium aims to strengthen the existing links between American and German researchers and to promote exchange and collaboration in  international human rights research.

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In the few months of its existence, the consortium has already attracted around seventy high-profile faculty from fifteen prestigious institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the University of Connecticut, Yale University, Wesleyan University, the University Network for Human Rights, Central Connecticut State University in Connecticut, and in Baden-Württemberg the University of Freiburg, University of Education  Freiburg, University of Tübingen, University of Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, University of Konstanz, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law/Heidelberg, the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law/Heidelberg, the Elisabeth Käsemann Foundation/Stuttgart as well as the Mark Twain Institute for Transatlantic Relations/Heidelberg. The consortium offers numerous avenues to collaborate, among them five thematic, interdisciplinary transatlantic working groups that have taken up their virtual interactions:

  1. “Human Rights, Science and Technology” addresses questions concerning the governance of scientific and technological innovations and human rights law, especially in the fields of biotechnology and artificial intelligence.
  2. “Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights” focuses on the claim of universality and human dignity that is often linked with the discussion of human rights.
  3. “Human Rights and International Relations” will address questions concerning human rights violations past and present and work on a critical theory of human rights.
  4. “Human Rights Education and Solidarity” aims at developing new ways of increasing democratic awareness for human rights in societies through education.
  5. The Human Rights Graduate Student Group encourages junior scholars to participate.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the HRRC inaugural event in Connecticut and a large inaugural conference in Baden-Württemberg have been postponed to November 2020. Nevertheless, the working groups continue to meet regularly via video conferencing, and the conference in November will be an opportunity to showcase some of the collaborative research conducted in these groups for a broader academic public.

Professors Wogenstein and von Hammerstein collaborate on this innovative and unique consortium as Connecticut Co-Directors, together with the Co-Directors in Baden-Württemberg, Professor Bernd Kortmann of the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies and Professor Silja Vöneky of the University of Freiburg. The Consortium is funded by UConn’s Global Affairs Office, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and Art, the UConn Human Rights Institute (HRI) and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) in Baden-Wuerttemberg Germany.


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