Cross-cutting approaches to human rights

Occidental College, University of Southern California, & Arizona State University

In 2019, Occidental College’s Young Initiative on the Global Political Economy partnered with the division of Social Sciences at Arizona State University and USC’s Institute on Inequalities in Global Health to hold a workshop on interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, and indivisibility in global human rights work.

As described in this video, the workshop featured scholars and practitioners representing all regions of the world and multiple disciplines and perspectives. This resulted in intense discussions on key themes essential to envisioning how human rights must evolve given the linked crises in global governance and the rise of global xenophobia. 

The following articles and videos are published as part of a partnership between the organizers of this workshop and OpenGlobalRights. They center around three key themes that Workshop participants identified as central: sexuality, sexual rights, and reproductive rights; feminism and the “triple bind”; and cosmopolitanism and sub-state actors.


Sexuality, Sexual Rights, and Reproductive Rights

Curator: Sofia Gruskin, Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, USC

How can human rights—including, but not limited to international human rights law—serve as a meaningful counterweight to the regressive trends around sexuality, sexual rights, and reproductive rights that are sweeping the globe?


Between progress and backlash: protecting sexual rights and reproductive rights

By: Sofia Gruskin
Español | 简体中文

What value do human rights have for advancing protections related to sexuality in the current moment?

Pandemic patriarchy: regulation, access, and governance in reproductive rights

By: Alison Brysk & Miguel Fuentes Carreno

Structural inequalities in women’s rights are exacerbated by the pandemic and leave poor and racialized women most vulnerable to the denial of reproductive rights.

Sex, sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health: the role of human rights

By: Kate Gilmore & Rajat Khosla

The interplay between sexuality, sex, sexual and reproductive health and human rights is not a mere question of biology, but of palpable matters of power, politics, ...

The limits and the promise of trans rights as human rights claims

By: Avery R. Everhart

How can human rights push back against regressive global trends in trans rights and sexual and reproductive rights?

The “homocolonialist” test for global LGBTQ+ & SOGIE rights strategies

By: Momin Rahman

There is a major pitfall in assuming that other countries simply need to “catch up” through an expansion of SOGIE rights frameworks.


Feminism and the “Triple Bind”

Curator: Pardis Mahdavi, ASU

How has feminism become a lightning rod issue in human rights discourses? How have women’s rights and human rights been pitted against each other? What are the attacks on both feminism and human rights from the right, the left, and from within? And how do we face these multiple fronts?


Under attack from all sides, where does feminism go next?

By: Pardis Mahdavi

In the US, feminism is under attack from the right, the left, and from within—causing American feminists a “triple bind”.

Paternal ignorance in human rights devalues knowledge of marginalized populations

By: William Paul Simmons

In the paternal drive to offer aid, victims and their knowledge are viewed as inferior, but rights activists need to admit their ignorance and question their positionality.

What can intersectional approaches reveal about experiences of violence?

By: Dolores Trevizo

Intersectional methods illuminate the variation in human suffering—with gender only one of several factors shaping experiences with violence.

Cosmopolitanism and Sub-state Actors

Curators: Anthony Tirado Chase and Gaea Morales, Occidental College

At a time when states are increasingly hostile to the international rights regime, human rights activists have forged alliances with non-state and sub-state actors as a point of entry for the implementation of human rights law. These recent developments complicate conventional analysis of relationships between local actors, global norms, and cosmopolitanism. Does the increasing impact of sub-state actors in transnational and global politics complicate how we think of “cosmopolitanism?” More specifically, do how such actors (at times) connect international law/norms to local issues/activism/communities impact an understanding of how human rights might serve as a meaningful counterweight to global xenophobia?


Cosmopolitanism and lived realities: beyond global-local binaries

By: Anthony Tirado Chase & Gaea Morales

False binaries of communities as local versus cosmopolitan are misleading and make as little sense as limiting activists’ choices to using either local or global ...

Cosmopolitan human rights and local transformations: in tension or in tandem?

By: LaDawn Haglund

The essentializing of “urban inhabitants” as somehow sharing a destiny ignores inequalities among inhabitants that may require more fundamental restructuring to ...

Cosmopolitan cities in an illiberal world

By: Nelson Camilo Sanchez

The economic crisis from the pandemic could bring solutions from the global South into global North cities that are less accustomed to confronting such issues.

Cosmopolitanism’s abstraction can blind us to damaging hierarchies of humanity

By: Joe Hoover

Appeals to humanity and the pronouncement of universal standards are empty (or worse) if they don’t begin with the difficult work of identifying and dismantling ...

Mobilizing empathy for a truly cosmopolitan human rights

By: Shareen Hertel

If it was difficult to show the interconnections among people and rights before the onset of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to do so now.

Relationship-based cosmopolitanism is key to meaningful but messy rights protections

By: Kristi Heather Kenyon
Setswana | Zulu

In practice, no one enjoys “international human rights.” In each of our lives, all rights are local and personal.

Everyday Cosmopolitanism: clinging to the faith of common humanity

By: Hussein Banai

The process of dialogue, reciprocity, and continual struggle in everyday cosmopolitanism is precisely what positions human rights as an effective bulwark against ...

Forget cosmopolitanism: the future of human rights is local

By: Michael Goodhart

It’s time to forget cosmopolitanism: it’s flawed and it impedes clearheaded analysis of human rights backlash.

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