Working groups

We invite proposals for new working groups from Binghamton University faculty.

The Upstate New York Policing Research Consortium (UNY-PRC)

Contact: Laura Warren Hill and Andrew Pragacz

The Upstate New York Police Research Consortium (UNY-PRC) under Binghamton University’s Human Rights Institute aims to locate current policing practices in a historical and structural context. The UNY-PRC comprises an interdisciplinary team of scholars who embrace “the study and [debates regarding] abolition of prisons,criminalization, policing, and other carceral mechanisms of state power,” in order to advance the academic and public understanding of policing in Upstate New York and to increase citizen engagement and oversight of criminal justice administration.

Founding members of UNY-PRC span four disciplines (criminal justice, sociology, computer science, and history) and three institutions in Rochester and Binghamton and will add research units from Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse during 2024. Thus, the goal of this project is to make scholarly research about policing and its impact available to the public to improve the administration of justice and the impact of justice processes on society. UNY-PRC will partner with community stakeholders engaged in activism in these communities, especially those engaged on the carceral question, both as sources of information and potential partners to reduce police misconduct, violence and wrongful convictions across upstate New York by fostering greater community interest and engagement with policing practices.

Capitalism and Human Rights

Contact: Suzy Lee and Jakob Feinig

This working group analyzes and contributes to the debate over capitalism's relationship to human rights: Does capitalism foster the best conditions for freedom to flourish? Are normative human rights limited by their conceptual, structural and historical ties to private ownership? The group shares research and core readings, with an eye toward future collaborative research projects.

Carceral States

Contact: Joshua Price (Ryerson University) and Alexandra Moore

One of our newest working groups brings together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates whose research ranges from conditions of confinement in the Broome County Jail to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Detention Center. We are developing an interest in comparative studies of carceral states that includes quantitative and qualitative studies, in part undertaken by our partnerships with universities both in the US and abroad. For the fall, 2020 semester, the group has focused on racialized policing. In 2021-2022, we are thinking about North American histories of policing and carceralization, including but not limited to: a comparative look at race and indigeneity in U.S. and Canadian incarceration practices; Japanese internment in U.S. and Canada; alternative forms of storytelling and historiography; critiques of methodological nationalism.

CIRIGHTS and Measuring Human Rights Data Project

Contact David Cingranelli and Mikhail Filippov

The goal of the CIRIGHTS data project is to generate numerical scores for the full range of human rights included in the International Bill of Human Rights using content analysis. Numerical scores measuring human rights are necessary to compare the human rights practices of different countries to develop and test theories of why states violate human rights, to evaluate the human rights consequences of policy interventions, and to determine whether government protection of various rights is improving or declining. The data generated by the activities of this project are widely used by policymakers, teachers, and scholars in the disciplines of political science, sociology, and economics. The Co-Directors of the project are David Cingranelli and Mikhail Filippov of the Binghamton University (BU) Department of Political Science and Skip Mark, a BU Ph.D., who is the Director of the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island (URI). 

Data generated by the CIRIGHTS project are used by the Human Rights Institute’s working group on Measuring Human Rights led by David and Mikhail. The purpose of the working group is to conduct collaborative research, educate students, write articles, and prepare proposals for external funding.  The working group is open to any BU faculty member and to students who are nominated by a faculty member. 

The working group is productivem with articles published, forthcoming, and under development. The working group also contributes to the quality of education at BU. Students at BU and the URI, who enroll in seminars taught by the Project Co-Directors, assist in the collection and analysis of the data. We treat these seminars the same way faculty in the natural sciences use their laboratories. Students enroll to learn and produce new knowledge. 

Cultural Representations of Human Rights

Contact: Alexandra Moore

This working group engages faculty (and students) from both national and international colleges and universities. It's goal is to promote excellent scholarship in the growing, transdisciplinary field of human rights in literary and cultural studies as well as to promote intellectual community. Members of the group convene once a year as the needs of the group vary. Activities include symposia, conference panels, and manuscript reviews for group members, among others. A current research project is looking at witnessing through the artwork of Guantanamo detainee Moath al-Alwi. An edited collection centering on Mr. al-Alwi's work and testimony will be published in fall 2023.

Food Justice Working Group

Contact: Barrett Brenton or Valerie Imbruce.

This multidisciplinary working group examining the impact of COVID-19 on food justice (broadly defined) convenes faculty, students, staff, and community partners in order to create active dialogue, organize research, and advocate for rights-based socially just food policies. The working group is founded on actions that are participatory, collaborative, and inclusive of all voices.  
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the long-standing structural fractures and violence of inequities in our current local, national, and international food systems, closely tied to food in/security, and health access/disparities. Responses to this crisis have also exemplified peaceful actions of human dignity and resilience, strongly aligned with advocates for social, economic, environmental, and racial justice. To understand and respond to this and other related protracted crises exposed by the pandemic (e.g., food production, food waste and consumption, climate change, economic and political instability) requires a broad historical, cross-cultural, and holistic vision of human rights, sustainable food systems and the environment. 
A primary goal for this working group is to link the current COVID-19 pandemic to the theoretical and methodological (quantitative-qualitative) scope of food justice research, scholarship, and advocacy. This approach will incorporate organizing food justice and food rights frameworks, including: The Right to Food (defined by the United Nations as ensuring “that people have physical and economic access to enough safe, nutritious food to lead healthy and active lives.”); and Food Sovereignty (defined by the international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina as "the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food systems”).  

Human Rights Pedagogies

Contact: Alexandra Moore

This working group organizes workshops and conversations around teaching human rights from transdisciplinary perspectives. The goals of the workshops are to improve our individual courses as well as to build innovative undergraduate and graduate curricula at Binghamton University. The group is also interested in publishing its work.

Human Trafficking Data Project (HTDP)

Contact: Suzy Lee

The HTDP brings together a coalition of researchers, trafficked persons, students, service providers, advocates and government representatives to understand the conditions that contribute to human trafficking and to address existing gaps in anti-trafficking policy. A primary focus of the group is on sex trafficking from a human rights-centered perspective and in relation to other forms of human trafficking. The HTDP has multifaceted objectives: promoting historical, sociological and cultural research on trafficking; identifying the human rights needs of trafficked persons in specific locations; developing training materials for service providers that promote survivor- and human rights-centered approaches (as opposed to punitive or rescue-oriented approaches); and developing policies to prevent and address both domestic and international trafficking. The HTDP will share research, promote the interdisciplinary study of trafficking and identify strategies that pertain to anti-trafficking initiatives in diverse locations. The current focus of the group is on a data-gathering from US Department of State T-Visas.

Landscapes of Injustice, Landscapes of Repair

Contact: Alexandra Moore

Our newest working group is convened by HRI Co-Director Moore in partnership with Dr. Sunita Toor, Professor of Human Rights and Social Justice Practice, Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield Hallam University and includes faculty and independent scholars from around the world.

The group hosted its first conference on Women, Climate, Insecurity in April 2022,  followed by a collection of articles in Open Global Rights. The conference began with an extraordinary workshop on Landscapes of Injustice, developed and led by Dr. Nikiwe Solomon of Environmental Humanities South, University of Cape Town. We develop feminist methodological approaches to understand and respond to climate change and its effects on women and girls. 

Our current activities focus on the Landscapes of Injustice, Landscapes of Repair seminar series. See details and free registration links here:

We welcome new members from across the disciplines as well as outside of academia.

Supervised Machine Learning and Global Patterns in Human Rights

Contact: David Cingranelli

Critical care doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital scroll through a computer screen of patient names looking at red numbers beside them—a score generated by artificial intelligence—to assess who might die. Can AI be used to predict bad human rights outcomes such as increases in government torture or extrajudicial killing? Can AI help us discover how to prevent those bad outcomes? Researchers at BU have an excellent opportunity to explore these questions. The CIRIGHTS Dataset, the largest and most widely used human rights dataset in the world, contains annual scores measuring the human rights practices of all nations over more than forty years. In 2022, David Schaffer of the Computer Science Department of the School of Engineering and the three political scientists who direct the CIRIGHTS Data Project (David Cingranelli, Mikhail Filippov, and Skip Mark) began exploring possibilities for using advanced computer science techniques to explore this dataset.. In the spring of 2023, several other faculty, mostly from the BU Computer Science Department joined us. During the summer of 2023, that larger working group met several times to assemble a data set combining CIRIGHTS data with indicators of drivers of government respect for human rights. Our plan in the 2023-24 academic year is to submit one or two journal articles showcasing the value of our approach.  After the first article is published, we plan to write a grant proposal to secure external funding to continue this work. 

Field projects

The Parent Mentor Program

Contact Marguerite Wilson or Denise Yull
The Parent Mentor Program (Denise Yull, PI; Marguerite Wilson, Co-PI) is a Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) project using a race- and class-conscious framework to advocate for the educational rights of marginalized families of color. The project seeks to (1) understand and reverse the processes of school-based dehumanization of parents and youth of color, (2) reframe parents' role in the school system as advocates to bridge cultural disconnects between White teachers and students of color, and (3) understand and dismantle patterns of disproportionate punitive disciplining (suspending, expelling, arresting) of students of color in public schools.

Refugee Assistance Project

Contact Kent F. Schull

Past projects 

Guatemalan Forced Migration
Contact Óscar F. Gil-García

This project focuses on the legal barriers to naturalization and citizenship of indigenous Mayan Guatemalan refugees following their return or deportation from the U.S. to Mexico. Preliminary findings have been published in The Conversation and republished in Plaza Pública and América Sin Muros in Guatemala and Mexico, respectively. A photo-documentary component of the study titled "Guatemalan Forced Migration," was selected for the Art & Oppression exhibition at the Marion Center for Photographic Arts in Santa Fe and is on permanent display at CENTER in Santa Fe. Forthcoming publications from the study will be used to shape policies that enable the legalization of stateless migrants who fled the Guatemalan military conflict (1954-1996) and now reside in Mexico.

Post-Conflict Rights in the Swat Valley, Pakistan
Led by Lubna Chaudhry
I have been conducting fieldwork in Swat Valley, Pakistan, since December 2009, when the people of Swat started to come back to Swat after the end of the armed conflict between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistan army. While I started off with an ethnographic study of post-conflict rights and issues of transitional justice, I moved into gathering oral histories from women, youth and children about the development of cultures of violence and the impact of these cultures on peoples' lives. I became interested in studying the Taliban movement as a bid for rights denied to this federally designated tribal area by the nation state structure. I also focused on the reconstruction process which again excluded voices and imperatives from the ground. Ultimately the study has become a multi-layered attempt to understand postcolonial trauma and its intricate, nuanced relationship to the struggle for rights.

Race in the History of International Human Rights Law
Led by Alexandra Moore
The group explores the complexities and nuances of the relationship between postcoloniality and race through an analysis of circumstances set into motion after the onset of European colonialism. We are interested in delving into the narratives of global racialization processes, their local contexts, and their material effects. We also anticipate shared interests and potential collaborations with the working groups on capitalism and on gender. One of our central questions is: To what extent can human rights discourses be used to address and redress persisting legacies of racialized power relations? This reading group has informed multiple faculty publications.

Religion and Human Rights
Led David Cingranelli
This group will focus on two questions. First, is religion the friend or enemy of human rights? This is an important question, because religiosity is increasing in the developing world. The second topic is whether religious conflicts in early modern Europe bear some similarity to the sectarian conflicts now rending parts of the Middle East and North Africa. If so, do the European wars between Protestants and Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries contain useful lessons for modern political, religious, and military decision-makers? We will focus our efforts on writing transdisciplinary concept papers, an edited book, and a proposal for external funding.

Technology and Human Rights
Led by Alexandra Moore

This working group got its start with a SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines grant that allowed the Human Rights Institute to host a SUNY-wide conference in Technologies of Human Rights Representation in spring 2019. The research currently engages faculty and students in various departments (Political Science, Geology, English and Comparative Literature, Law, Nursing). A volume of essays, entitled Technologies of Human Rights Representation, that builds on the work of the group was recently published by SUNY Press in its Studies in Human Rights book series. The book hasjust been released in paperback.

Human Rights-Related Databases

CIRIGHTS Data Project
Global Health Impact Project
CIRI Human Rights Project

Online Tools

Human Rights Studies Online (to access, sign in through your Binghamton PODS account) :
A research and learning database providing comparative documentation, analysis, and interpretation of major human rights violations and atrocity crimes worldwide from 1900 to 2010. Includes approx.150 hours of video.