Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
28 September 2009

Call for papers – 50 years of Human Rights Activism: Comemorating Sharpville

CALL FOR PAPERS

50 YEARS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM: COMMEMORATING SHARPEVILLE

21 March 2010 marks 50 years since the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, which is today commemorated annually as Human Rights Day in South Africa. To mark this event, the Democratic Governance and Right Unit (DGRU) of the Department of Public Law at the  University of Cape Town (UCT), the Political Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), are convening a conference to consider some contemporary issues confronting civil society activists and human rights practitioners. Papers, to be presented at the conference in March 2010, are invited to address the following themes / questions:

What is the meaning of Sharpeville in a contemporary context? How should we define the relationship between the state and civil society, contrasting 1960 and the post-1994 era?

  • Visual representations of landmark events in the SA human rights calendar, and the “politics of remembering”. How are seminal moments in history captured, used, co-opted or distorted to articulate particular political ends?
  • The emergence of gender-based hate crimes in the context of LGBT rights. Is civil society continuing to advance the rights of LGBT people?
  • Are popular struggles to articulate social and economic rights in the present in contrast with the civil and political struggles of the past, and what is the role of civil society in these struggles?
  • What are some of the emerging theoretical debates about human rights, and has the language human rights become problematic for social mobilization? How are struggles for group identity, opposition politics or environmental issues articulated in terms of their human rights implications?
  • What is the role of progressive churches and religious bodies as champions of human rights. What is the legacy of liberation theology and struggle icons from religious institutions?
  • In the context of the current debate on judicial selection, whose interests do judges represent, and how does their training prepare them for adjudicating the rights of poor and marginalized people?

 Please send an abstract of 300 words to Dr Kristina Bentley, kristina.bentley@uct.ac.za by 2 October 2009. Authors of the selected papers will be invited to a workshop in early December to present their papers for discussion ahead of the conference in March 2010. The papers will be published in a special edition of a local peer reviewed journal.

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