Researching Human Rights in International Relations and its Practical Implications – Sarah Brockmeier & Ashley Gongaware

Rückblick 13.05. – Lecture by Sarah Brockmeier and Ashley Gongaware: “Researching Human Rights in International Relations and its Practical Implications”

Ashley Gongaware und Sarah Brockmeier
Ashley Gongaware und Sarah Brockmeier (from left to right)

Focusing on re­se­arch ex­pe­ri­ence and me­tho­do­lo­gy ra­ther than re­sults, the ses­si­on on the 13th of May ga­ve the ex­tra­or­di­na­ry op­por­tu­ni­ty in­si­de the lec­tu­re se­ries to en­ga­ge in con­ver­sa­ti­on about what re­se­ar­ching in the hu­man rights field can look li­ke and what it im­plies. With in­put by two guest speakers, Ashley Gongaware and Sarah Brockmeier, the ses­si­on evol­ved in­to a space for in dep­th dis­cus­sions with a smal­ler num­ber of at­ten­de­es.

Discussing methodology based on research concerning Roma expulsions in the EU

Presenting the me­thods of her doc­to­ral re­se­arch, Ashley Gongaware em­pha­si­zed that the­re are two dif­fe­rent ways to find yours­elf a re­se­arch to­pic: you have a theo­ry that you want to pro­ve, or you ex­ami­ne a spe­ci­fic pro­blem that you want to sol­ve or in­ter­pret. She calls the first ap­proach “theory-driven” in com­pa­ri­son to the se­cond “problem-driven” re­se­arch. Her cur­rent work on Roma ex­pul­si­on from the EU be­longs mo­re to the se­cond ty­pe, she sta­ted.

One pie­ce of ad­vice gi­ven to the au­di­ence was to al­ways choo­se a re­se­arch de­sign con­scious­ly and on a lo­gi­cal ba­sis to en­su­re the ade­quacy for the pro­blem or theo­ry cho­sen to re­se­arch. She herself cho­se to work with dis­cour­se ana­ly­sis to ex­ami­ne how con­flict par­ties wrap their messa­ges and to ana­ly­ze the con­tent as well as the lan­guage used to mo­bi­li­ze peop­le. Gongaware wants to ans­wer the ques­ti­on whe­re the­re are dif­fe­ren­ces in the framing of messa­ges bet­ween po­pu­lists and Roma supporters/human rights ac­tivists and how they mo­bi­li­ze or do not mo­bi­li­ze not on­ly “re­gu­lar peop­le” but al­so po­li­ti­ci­ans. She does this using a tech­ni­que cal­led “Process Tracing”.

In the last step, she tri­es to nar­row her gathe­red da­ta by using struc­tu­red, fo­cu­sed com­pa­ri­son. She al­so poin­ted out, that the­re might be dis­crepan­ci­es bet­ween a researcher’s first as­sump­ti­on con­cer­ning his re­se­arch and the rea­li­ty. For examp­le, she tal­ked about ad­vo­cacy that may help to pro­tect hu­man rights but al­so to vio­la­te them de­pen­ding on the laws. At last she wis­hed the­re would be mo­re re­se­arch be­gin­ning on the micro-level with the ac­tivists in­s­te­ad of theo­reti­cal ap­proa­ches, but al­so doub­ted the ap­p­li­ca­bi­li­ty of this ap­proach in of­fi­ci­al re­se­arch de­part­ments or uni­ver­si­ties.

Theoretical and practical engagement with the “Responsibility to Protect” and genocide

Sarah Brockmeier cur­r­ent­ly works on a pro­ject about glo­bal norm evo­lu­ti­on with a fo­cus on the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi). The R2P princip­le re­qui­res sta­tes to ta­ke di­plo­ma­tic, eco­no­mic or mi­li­ta­ry me­a­su­res to pro­tect po­pu­la­ti­ons in ano­t­her sta­te if this sta­te fails to pro­tect its po­pu­la­ti­ons from ge­n­o­ci­de, cri­mes against hu­ma­ni­ty, eth­nic clean­sing or war cri­mes. Brockmeier re­se­ar­ches de­ba­tes on R2P over the last 10 ye­ars and how they shaped this con­cept.

Apart from GPPi, she al­so works at the NGO “Genocide Alert”, which works on the pre­ven­ti­on of ge­n­o­ci­des and mass atro­ci­ties. As an examp­le for her re­se­arch and work at Genocide Alert, Sarah Brockmeier tal­ked about the Rwandan ge­n­o­ci­de 20 ye­ars ago and sta­ted that in­for­ma­ti­on gathe­ring as well as the in­ter­pre­ta­ti­on of ear­ly warning si­gns fai­led al­so wi­t­hin the German go­vernment. Brockmeier de­scri­bed her work as chal­len­ging not on­ly be­cau­se of the com­ple­men­ta­ry ap­proach of ac­tivists and re­se­ar­chers but be­cau­se of the time con­sump­ti­on of two part-time jobs, which me­ans al­ways struggling to gi­ve both of them the at­ten­ti­on ne­cessa­ry.

Brockmeier dis­cus­sed her com­ple­men­ta­ry jobs which in­flu­ence her in re­se­ar­ching and ques­ti­ons if a neu­tral re­se­arch in ge­ne­ral is pos­si­ble She ack­now­led­ged that every re­se­ar­cher has his/her own opi­ni­on on R2P or any other to­pic, but she be­lie­ves that – as long as a re­se­ar­cher is awa­re of his or her own bia­ses – he or she can pro­du­ce high qua­li­ty re­se­arch.  In her opi­ni­on every re­se­arch is nor­ma­ti­ve bia­sed, it is mo­re a mat­ter of kno­wing how to deal with one’s own bia­ses. .

Overall, the two con­cise pre­sen­ta­ti­ons and the fol­lo­wing vi­vid dis­cus­sion ga­ve peop­le in the au­di­ence a good im­pres­si­on of pos­si­ble re­se­arch per­spec­tives in the field of in­ter­na­tio­nal re­la­ti­ons, in­sights in­to its ap­p­li­ca­bi­li­ty and the op­por­tu­ni­ty to learn about the ques­ti­ons and chal­len­ges re­se­ar­ches in hu­man rights face. We thank our two pre­sen­ters for this con­tri­bu­ti­on to our lec­tu­re se­ries.

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