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SPHR 2019: Conference Theme

Going Against the Grain

2019 marks 30 years since the end of the Cold War and the beginning of an era pregnant with promise and potential for human rights, democracy, and global governance. While the world has seen substantial progress, we are facing the potential of a profoundly dystopian future instead of the utopia of our dreams.

Global capitalism drives widening and deepening inequalities. Its dependence on natural resource extraction and exploitation is hastening ecological collapse. Authoritarianism and populism have risen from the rubble of liberalism’s inability to deliver on its pledges. Technology, once promoted as a panacea for transnational boundary breaking and democratization, further empowers the powerful to reshape politics and upend notions of privacy, social life, information, employment, and even biology.

The forces originally designed to lift up the marginalized, level the playing field, confine power, and ensure accountability have been weaponized and turned against society. Critics have questioned the relevance of the human rights field in countering these trends; they have alleged that the movement suffers from neocolonialist tendencies and unfettered reliance on existing economic and political systems. These dynamics have caused a sense of crisis within the human rights community, prompting extensive self-examination and efforts to affirm its legitimacy and counter high-profile critiques.

Now is the time for creativity and innovation to confront these systemic challenges with an ambition commensurate to their scale and scope.  How can and should the human rights movement shape itself in the future to understand and address such complex risks and structural transformations? What kind of strategic directions —  from reform-oriented to radical — should be analyzed and considered? Which approaches, tools, and spaces are emerging as critical? What novel ones should be cultivated? What are the risks in doing so?

In this spirit, the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton will convene the 2019 Social Practice of Human Rights (SPHR) conference to address high-risk threats that present themselves with unprecedented urgency. It will be our task to reinvigorate collaborative efforts with hope and vigor, building sustainable movements and disruptive methods even when it means, to quote Pope Francis, “going against the grain.”

Keynote addresses, plenaries, and a mix of concurrent sessions will address themes and their intersections including:
  • Eco-economic transformation: emphasis on intersectional inequality, redistributive models, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability and climate justice.
  • Technological transformation: the implications and promise of artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, technology-based innovation, and the role of digital freedom.
  • Social and political transformation: the power of social movements; civic and feminist mobilization; the role of theater, art, and cultural expressions of human rights; and the inclusion, protection, and resourcing  of social movements, activists, and advocates. 



To Attend or Present

Each day includes a plenary, a keynote address, a book signing, a mix of research, poster and roundtable sessions, a forward-thinking workshop led by JustLabs and OpenGlobalRights, networking events, and art exhibits and performances.

Register Today!

Human Rights Center

Keller Hall
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2790
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