St. Olaf set to begin 2014 Social Science Conference


Brave people around the world champion human rights every day, tackling social, economic and health inequalities, human trafficking, state repression, and other grave injustices.  In February St. Olaf’s 2014 Social Science Conference, “Promoting Human Rights,” will bring together scholars, activists, and those of us interested in concrete solutions to these  critical problems. During lectures, films, and workshops we will address these issues from the local to global level with a focus on pathways for action.

The conference will begin Thursday night, February 20, with the acclaimed and controversial documentary The Act of Killing. This film chronicles the egregious human rights abuses during the military takeover of Indonesia in 1965 with leaders of paramilitary death squads dramatizing their own actions. On Friday Douglas Johnson, formerly executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture and currently director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, will present new tactics to improve strategic thinking in the human rights movement.

On Saturday Kathryn Sikkink, professor of political science at Harvard, will address international efforts to punish perpetrators of human rights violations. Also on Saturday, students and local and community groups that work on human rights issues will present various pathways for engaging in the change process via posters and tabling efforts.

Finally, workshops focusing on how to take specific action both locally and globally will further assist participants in developing their own place in promoting human rights. Sessions will include one led by Johnson addressing what can be done to change U.S. policy condoning torture and one by Sikkink focusing on using transnational advocacy networks. St. Olaf professors and students will lead additional sessions on immigrant rights, ending human trafficking, addressing health care inequalities, promoting Palestinian rights, and other issues.

The 2014 St. Olaf Social Science Conference is free and open to the public, and it will take place February 20-22. The conference is funded by St. Olaf’s associate dean of social sciences, the David L. and Margery Ostrom Scheie Endowment, and the Kloeck-Jenson Endowment for Peace and Justice Studies.