Human Rights and Social Justice Research Cluster

Human Rights and Social Justice Research Cluster

This multi-disciplinary strand undertakes research into the theoretical and normative foundations of human rights and investigates how human rights can advance social justice. It brings together philosophers, lawyers and other human rights researchers and combines work on the nature, function and reach of human rights with investigation of their practical implementation. Researchers in this strand work on a range of human rights issues of contemporary importance. These include equality for vulnerable individuals and disenfranchised social groups, poverty, migration, detention and access to justice.

Current Projects

Forensic Ecologies: States of War, Biopolitics of the More-Than-Human, Justice

Joseph Pugliese

Monograph: forthcoming Edinburgh University Press

Summary: Forensic Ecologies refracts the concept of the biopolitical through a non-anthropocentric frame in order to disclose the more-than-human entities that are also the targets of armed conflict. Focusing on the occupied Palestinian territories, the US drone killing fields of South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, and Guantánamo, the book challenges Euro-anthropocentric law’s dogma of human exceptionalism. In the context of states of war, trees, rocks, animals and water offer forensic testimonies that articulate a call for ecological justice. Situated in the global anthropocenic crisis, the book contends that ecological justice offers the foundational ground for all other modalities of justice.

Deathscapes: Mapping Race and Violence in Settler States (2016 - 2018)

Joseph Pugliese, Sherene Razack, Jonathan Inda, and Marianne Franklin.

ARC Discovery Project (2016 - 2018). Awarded $440,000.

Summary: This research seeks new ways to document, understand and respond to the critical issue of racialised deaths in sites of state custody such as police cells, prisons and immigration detention centres. It brings together a cross-disciplinary and transnational team from four countries to examine the conditions under which Indigenous and border-related deaths occur, and to explore how legal and social accountability for them is assigned. Moving away from individual national contexts, it seeks to identify and map, at global as well as local levels, the shared institutional practices, technologies and explanatory frameworks that characterize custodial deaths in the key settler states of Australia, Canada and the United States. Lead CI: Professor Suvendrini Perera, Curtin University. Partner Investigators are Professor Sherene Razack, University of California, Los Angeles; Professor Jonathan Inda, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne; Professor Marianne Franklin, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

A Relational Theory of Procedural Justice (2017)

Denise Meyerson, Catriona Mackenzie, and Therese MacDermott

ARC Discovery Project (2017). Awarded: $207,000

Summary: This project aims to develop a relational theory of procedural justice, based on the quality of interactions between individuals and legal authorities. Just procedures maintain the public's trust in the legal system, but lawyers and philosophers have not studied what makes legal procedures morally justifiable. The project will use empirical studies about the public's understanding of procedural justice to enrich the normative analysis and demonstrate the value of the theory in the practical setting of tribunal proceedings. This research is expected to contribute to theoretical and practical debates about how to improve legal procedures.

Completed projects

Law, Morality and Risk

Denise Meyerson

Summary: The traditional response of the law to harmful conduct is backwards-looking: liability is imposed on the basis of past conduct. Increasingly, however, the law is being used to prevent conduct which poses a future risk of harm. On this forwards-looking approach, the rights and liberties of individuals are restricted not because of what they have done in the past but purely because of what they might do in the future. The aim of this project is to investigate the moral, political and human rights issues which attend such coercive preventive measures. It will propose an ethical and rights-respecting framework to guide policymakers in this area.

The Impact of Human Rights Legislation in Australia

Denise Meyerson and Simon Rice

Macquarie University Research Development Grant

Summary: This project contributes to the development of law and public policy in the field of human rights. The impetus behind it is the notable absence of information in countries which have enacted bills of rights as to whether they make a difference and even how one might tell. Since Australia is at the beginning of this process, and since the need for human rights legislation is a subject of national debate, the aim of this project is to assess the extent to which recent human rights legislation in the ACT and Victoria has increased respect for human rights. Target areas are courts and tribunals, public debate, lawyers and civil society organisations. The findings will be used to make submissions to current inquiries into human rights legislation.

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