International Conference to Bring Leading Human Rights Scholars to UVA Law

Event Will Offer Collaboration for Interdisciplinary Fields
Lady justice
December 6, 2016

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Leading legal scholars, historians and political scientists from across the globe will convene at UVA Law for an interdisciplinary conference to be held March 31-April 1 in Caplin Pavilion. The conference, titled “What’s Next for Human Rights Scholarship,” is organized by the UVA Working Group in Human Rights Research.

"This is a pivotal time for interdisciplinary human rights and humanitarian law scholarship," said Kevin Cope, a research assistant professor of law who co-organized the event with James Loeffler of the Corcoran Department of History and law professor Mila Versteeg. "Legal scholars working on human rights are incorporating methods and approaches of economics, history and political science. International relations scholars are increasingly delving into the impacts of human rights institutions. Recent historical work has attracted interest from several other disciplines. However, there is still much that separates the disciplines. This conference is an attempt to bring these fields closer together through a series of interdisciplinary conversations and to create opportunities for future collaboration."

As part of the conference, UVA law librarians Ben Doherty and Loren Moulds will present the Law Library’s new searchable database of the travaux preparatoires of the core human rights agreements. Until this initiative, these travaux were not electronically available but were scattered across the globe in various U.N. libraries. This formerly lost history of human rights law offers a fruitful avenue for new scholarship across fields, Cope said.

The event is open to the public. Attendees must register to receive lunch.

What’s Next for Human Rights Scholarship?

Friday, March 31

1-1:15 p.m.    
Dean’s Welcome and Opening Thoughts

  • Risa Goluboff, Dean, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Kevin Cope, University of Virginia Politics Department and Law School

1:15-2:15 p.m.
Panel 1: Defining & Measuring Human Rights

2:25-3:05 p.m.            
UVA Library’s Travaux Database Presentation & Discussion

3:15-4:45 p.m.            
Panel 2: The (Dis)location of Rights: Perspectives from European Legal History 

  • Discussants: Alon ConfinoElizabeth Borgwardt and Jim Loeffler
  • Mira Siegelberg, “The Transformation of Law in the 20th Century: Legal Personality, Statelessness, and the History of Human Rights”
  • Moria Paz, “Network or State? International Law and the History of Jewish Self Determination”*
  • Umut Özsu, “Neoliberalism and Human Rights: The Brandt Commission and the Struggle to Make a New World”*

Saturday, April 1

9-11 a.m.        
Panel 3: International Humanitarian Law                  

  • Doreen Lustig, “The Paris Commune of 1871 and the Birth of International Humanitarian Law”* (co-authored with Eyal Benvenisti) (Geoff Dancy, Discussant)
  • Kevin Cope and James Morrow, “Negotiating the ICC” (Paul Stephan, Discussant)
  • Rotem Giladi, “Rites of Affirmation: Progress and Immanence in International Humanitarian Law Historiography”* (Larry Helfer, Discussant)
  • Davide Rodogno, “The ‘Horrific Photo of a Dead Syrian Child’ (September 2015): A Historian’s Perspective” (Larry Helfer, Discussant)

11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.  
Panel 4: International Institutions and Organizations      

  • Discussant: Jana von Stein         
  • Cosette Creamer, “Self-reporting Under CEDAW”
  • Marco Duranti, “Revisiting the Original Intent of the European Convention on Human Rights: A Historian’s Perspective on Present-Day Controversies”*
  • Erik Voeten, “The Effect of Female Judges on International Courts’ Human Rights Jurisprudence”
  • Beth Simmons and Anton Strezhnev, “Rights Before Welfare: Does Global Human Rights Promotion Crowd Out Development?”*

1:15-2 p.m.    
Lunch for Invited Participants and Registered Guests (Purcell Reading Room)

2:20-4:20 p.m.
Panel 5: Domestic Dimensions of International Human Rights Law

  • Hyeran Jo, “Do Rebels Understand International Humanitarian Law?”* (Mila Versteeg, Discussant)
  • Yonatan Lupu, “Violence, Non-violence, and the Effects of International Human Rights Law” (Mila Versteeg, Discussant)
  • Sarah Snyder, “Human Rights Activism and Transnational Connections” (David Luban, Discussant)
  • Kiyoteru Tsutsui, “Human Rights and Minority Activism in Japan: Transformation of Movement Actorhood and Local-Global Feedback Loop” (David Luban, Discussant)         

4:35-5:45 p.m.
Reflections and Ways Forward

Invited participants, with opening thoughts by Beth Simmons, Eric Posner* and Sam Moyn*

* Paper to be submitted to the conference’s special issue of Law & Contemporary Problems



The event has received grants and other financial support from the following UVA divisions and institutes:

  • School of Law Library and Human Rights Program
  • Center for Global Inquiry + Innovation
  • Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
  • Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures
  • Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
  • Program in Jewish Studies
  • Global Studies Program
  • Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
  • Page-Barbour Workshops
  • Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities

For questions, contact Kevin Cope at

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