2015-2016 Mellon Faculty Seminars

In 2015-16, a team of faculty from across the university conducted a seminar on "Human Rights in Africa". The team was comprised of:

  • Mohamed Kamara (Romance Languages)
  • Dayo Abah (Journalism)
  • Johanna Bond (Law)
  • Tyler Dickovick (Politics)
  • Henok Gabisa (Law)
  • John Lambeth (Romance Languages)


From the days of African empires, through the slave trade, colonization, the cold war, Apartheid and white supremacy in Southern Africa, civil wars, the genocide in Rwanda, AQIM/Boko Haram and the rise of so-called Islamic terrorism, and today's wrangling over the benefits and deficits of immigration/emigration and globalization, the question of human rights has always been at the core of Africa's relations with herself and with others. What are Human Rights? How are notions of human rights and the more specific questions of law, justice, political reform and development in Africa different from those of Western Enlightenment and modernist traditions? What does the XIIIth century declaration of individual and collective rights, "La Charte du Mandé," have in common with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among others? Or in what ways is it different from them? Are human rights the same as individual rights and group rights? How do minority rights (LGBT rights, for example), women's rights, and children's rights, among others, fit into the universal and universalizing Western concept of the ‘droits de l'homme' or the ‘rights of man'?

Through seminars, book colloquia, and a film series, we exposed and engaged the ways in which various media (literature and film, print and broadcast), state or quasi-state actors (local and foreign), non-state actors (individuals, the AU, the UN and its various bodies, rights groups, local and international NGOs, international courts, the IMF and World Bank), as well as African policy-makers, writers, filmmakers and other producers of culture engage the aforementioned issues germane to the everyday realities of individuals, groups, and states in Africa.