Fostering Just and Equitable Communities

Human rights collaborative and faculty-student human rights laboratory to promote equitable civil society

$110k GC Exploratory Research Grant; includes $50k international enhancement award

Co-PIs: Barbara Frey, Global Studies; Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Law; James Ron, Global Policy; Joachim Savelsberg, Sociology

Team Members: Alejandro Baer, Sociology; Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Sociology; Cosette Creamer, Political Science; Ana Forcinito, Spanish & Portuguese; Greta Friedemann-Sánchez, Global Policy; Jennifer Green, Law; Lisa Hilbink, Political Science; Harry Lando, Public Health; Amanda Lyons, Law; Patrick McNamara, History; Steven Miles, Medicine; Stephen Meili, Law; Leigh Payne, Human Rights Program; Christopher Roberts, Law

A substantial cross-disciplinary and cross-collegiate group of faculty at the University of Minnesota engages in sustained collaborative research, instruction, and policy outreach on issues of human rights. The current project seeks to further strengthen the capacity of Minnesota as a nationally and internationally recognized human rights university (network of faculty engaged in human rights research). It takes the form of a research lab, serving the advancement of faculty research, graduate student training, interdisciplinary collaboration, and policy-oriented outreach. Common denominators are a focus on inequality by which we mean unequal access to and experience of a variety of resources, operationalized through the prism of human rights. Twelve lab sessions, each focused on one sub-project, will be followed by summer research stays of graduate students in a site of practice (e.g., community, NGO, policy institution, court) and faculty field site visits. Results include intensified scholarship-practice ties, scholarly publications, and grant proposals for external funding.

Social justice through collaborative artistic expression: The state of Iberoamerican Studies Series: human rights across the disciplines and Voice to Vision project

$55k GC Exploratory Research Grant; includes $15k international enhancement award

Co-PIs: Luis A. Ramos-Garcia, Spanish & Portuguese Studies; David Feinberg, Art

Team Members: Beth Andrews, Art; Patricia Ariza, Artistic Director La Candelaria Theater; Eduardo Cabrera, Spanish, Millikin University, Illinois; Gerardo Cajamarca, US Latino Community and Union Organizer, Minneapolis; Yeisson Cajamarca Zapata, Colombian Government Official; Gary Christensen, Boynton Health/Psychiatry; Nelsy Echávez-Solano, Spanish-Portuguese Studies; Percy Encinas, theatre professor, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos; Fredy Frisancho, Education Sciences, UAP-Arequipa; Nohra Gonzalez, La Candelaria Theater actress; Kimchi Hoang, Visual Artist and actress; Alberto Justiniano, Teatro del Pueblo Artistic Director; Marcos Martinez, Theatre, California State University San Marcos; Vivian Martinez Tabares, Theatre, Director of La Candelaria Theatre; Tu-Nguyen Phan, College of Liberal Arts; Karen Roa, Visual Artist and actress, Member of Tramaluna Theatre; Carlos E. Satizábal, Theater Director, Universidad Nacional da Colombia; Ernesto Silva, Latin American/Latin Studies, Kennesaw State University, Georgia

This project weaves a crosshatched path in multiple directions between performance art, civil war narratives, cultural studies, theater, human rights, and all manners of political activism. Struck by Colombia’s civil war, and by how visually rich the conflict and its artistic responses were as intellectual groups actively responded to violence and its fractured memories, this project developed a proposal to record the cultural responses to the conflict, and to turn those responses into non-ephemeral images, increasing the possibilities of an artistic language, and providing a fuller expression and understanding of complex human rights violations. At Minnesota, Voice to Vision and The State of Iberoamerican Studies conducted artistic workshops and critical fora bringing together traditional scholarly approaches as well as the powerful political voices of contemporary non-canonical cultural narratives. After having produced several art pieces on Latin American theater directors and human rights activists, directors of the 50-year-old La Candelaria Theater and members of the Corporacion Colombiana de teatro will visit Minnesota in 2017. In 2018, a Minnesota delegation will travel to Colombia to exhibit its art installations, and to research on how political theater and the arts could form a symbiotic alliance to become a tool against war, genocide, impugnity, displacement, and amnesia.

Understanding barriers to health equity

$56k GC Exploratory Research Grant

Co-PIs: Sarah Gollust, Health Policy & Management; Joanne Miller, Political Science

Team Members: Emma Klinger, undergraduate student

The project examines the political and psychological factors that impede the political will to act to foster just and equitable communities. In particular, survey and experimental research methods will be used to examine what beliefs among the public, particularly beliefs in misinformation and conspiracy theories, lead to decreased support for policies to combat inequities, focusing on the domains of health, education, income, and criminal justice. The key premise of this work is that misinformation and conspiracy theories (about inequality in general and the specific domain in particular) can lead to polarization and mistrust, as well as a policy discourse that emphasizes group separation at the expense of discourse about community-building. Together, these factors can decrease the political will to advocate for policies aimed at combating inequalities—among members of the public and policymakers alike. The project will move on to examine ways to mitigate the negative effects of misinformation.

Voicing the global immigration crisis: Documentation and analysis of immigrant stories for social change

$80k GC Exploratory Research Grant; includes $20k international enhancement award

Co-PIs: Erika Lee, Immigration Research; Moin Syed, Psychology

The project employs diverse cross-disciplinary perspectives and methods to document, understand, and improve immigrant adaptation. The project will first use the innovative digital storytelling technology designed and built by the University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center to gather data from recent immigrants in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Berlin, Germany—in two countries currently experiencing unprecedented levels of new migration. The research team will then use quantitative psychological methods to code these accounts, along with more than 200 existing U.S.-based immigrant stories already collected, to analyze immigrant adaptation experiences and to design interventions to increase positive immigrant adjustment. The project includes an international symposium bringing together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to study immigrant adaptation through digital storytelling in both the U.S. and Europe. The impact of this research will lie in the development of cross-cultural understandings of immigrant adjustment and in providing a platform for marginalized communities to share their stories that potentially can help others.

Assessing interventions for justice and equity

$249k GC Interdisciplinary Work Group Collaboration

Co-PIs: Myron Orfield, Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law; Christopher Uggen, Sociology

Team Members: Ragui Assaad, Global Policy; Yingling Fan, Urban & Regional Planning; Paul Glewwe, Applied Economics; Rhonda Jones-Webb, Epidemiology & Community Health

Gaps in opportunity emerge early in life, are interlinked, are strongly influenced by racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools, and have profound effects into adulthood. Closing these gaps is crucial to building just and equitable communities. This interdisciplinary project probes Minnesota’s most ambitious efforts to redress racial and class inequality. Building on the strengths of the state’s integrated data systems and outstanding University scholars from six disciplines, it tackles the grand challenge of stubborn inequalities in education, health, transportation, employment, and safety. Our aims are to (1) evaluate the effects of programs designed to close opportunity gaps and promote healthy youth-to-adult transitions among Minnesota youth and (2) to investigate for whom these programs are most effective. More specifically, this mixed-methods study will conduct rigorous evaluations of specific programs, in the areas of both education and housing, that pursue different approaches, and are inspired by different philosophies of social change.