Activities in 2012

Human Rights and Imperialism in Historical Perspective

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10-11 August 2012

This interdisciplinary conference investigated the relationship between the discursive frameworks of human rights and empire from the nineteenth century to the present. It was convened by Dr Marco Duranti of the University of Sydney and Professor Samuel Moyn of Columbia University.

Papers and discussion were oriented around the following lines of inquiry:

  • How do empires operate as sites of contact and contestation between local, imperial and global rights idioms?
  • To what extent can we identify commonalities and continuities between imperialism and the development of international human rights institutions and movements?
  • Is it accurate or productive to describe humanitarian initiatives in colonial and postcolonial contexts as human rights projects?
  • What place do anticolonialism and decolonization have in the history of human rights?
  • How do new trends in the scholarship on imperialism and postcolonialism inform our understanding of the genesis of international human rights activism and norms?
  • Do human rights provide a useful lens through which to approach the history of imperialism?

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We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the University of Sydney’s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, International Society Research Cluster, International Program Development Fund, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, China Studies Centre and School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. We are also thankful for the external funding provided by the University of Western Sydney and New York University via the Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History.


Empire and International History: The 4th International Postgraduate Intensive. University of Sydney

26-27 July 2012

The Postgraduate Intensive 'Empire and International History' invites graduate research students to reflect on the significance of empire in modern history, in international and transnational contexts. The remit is broad, and we are interested in students working in cultural, social, political, economic, and intellectual history, and in any of the many international contexts in which questions of empire have been of importance, whether the history of internationalism, or development, nationalism or trade, slavery, or anti-slavery, or indeed the history of ideas of liberalism, or colonialism, or decolonization, human rights, or women's rights, race, class or gender.

Students accepted into the intensive will be required to contribute a written paper for pre- circulation, and presentation at the meeting to take place over two days, from Thursday 26- Friday 27, 2012. Each paper will receive a commentary from an allocated Faculty respondent.


Southern Crossings: Australia and the Cape Colony, c. 1750 – 1850.

This fourth-year Honours seminar is run jointly by Professor Nigel Worden at the University of Cape Town and Associate Professor Kirsten McKenzie at the University of Sydney in 2010 and 2011.

Southern Crossings explores the history of the Cape Colony and Australia in the period c.1750-1850. In particular we discuss in what ways writing about one region might be applied to the other and how current interest in transnational and imperial history approaches might be used in Cape and Australian research. The seminar connects students internationally through a designated website, video conferencing, and cross-institutional visits by staff. For a report on Kirsten McKenzie’s time at the University of Cape Town see the Department of Historical Studies, UCT blog.