The Donia Human Rights Center is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Robert J. Donia Graduate Student Fellowship. The Fellowship offers graduate student summer grants of $6,000 to support research on human rights. Student grantees conduct research or writing to contribute to the completion of their doctoral dissertation. This year’s winners represent the Center’s sixth cohort.  The winners are: Anna Brotman-Krass, Kathleen Brown, Irene Routté, and Collin Sullivan. We congratulate all the recipients!

Anna Brotman-Krass
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Romance Languages & Literatures

In the department of Romance Languages & Literatures (Spanish), Anna is pursuing doctoral research situated within transatlantic feminist movements, migration studies, and focuses on the role of performance in activism. In this research, she centers collaboration with activist care workers in Madrid, Spain to make films at the intersections of these topics.

Project description:
With the support of the Donia Human Rights Fellowship, Anna will be continuing her ongoing film collaboration with a feminist collective of migrant domestic laborers based in Madrid, Spain. These short analog films portray issues relating to diaspora, politics of care, domestic work and labor rights. Robert J. Donia Graduate Student Fellowship is supporting the research project titled “Migrant Domestic Laborers and Care Workers in Spain: the Translation of Performing Arts-Based Activism into Film.”

Kathleen Brown
Doctoral Candidate
Department of American Culture

Kathleen is a doctoral candidate in American Culture. Broadly, she is interested in the history of US-based left-wing, transnational solidarity movements throughout the 20th century, the motivations of its participants, and the consequences of their involvement. She is particularly interested in how these movements used humanitarian aid as a political strategy to overtly challenge US foreign policy. She examines a range of anti-embargo and anti-blockade campaigns both before and after the development of post-war human rights discourse, which allows her to consider earlier frameworks of anti-imperialism and anti-fascism prior to the Cold war against the later framework of “human rights” during the height of anti-Communism.

Kathleen holds masters degrees from Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Michigan, Kathleen taught high school in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Germany.

Project Description:
The project “Breaking the Embargo: Humanitarian Aid as Political Defiance,” examines four US-American based internationalist campaigns which have attempted to ease humanitarian crises through direct action. These campaigns have often explicitly - and proudly - defied their government’s embargos and blockades, putting activists under the glare of state repression. This includes the mainly African American “Hands of Ethiopia'' campaign which attempted to defend the sovereign African nation against Mussolini’s assault in 1935, followed by the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy and the American Medical Bureau’s efforts to send goods and medical personnel to Spain, with particular attention paid to the contributions of the Negro People’s Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. Decades later, the Central American Solidarity Movement organized aid caravans and professional brigades to interrupt Reagan’s trade blockade against Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. Organizations such as Nicaragua Network (NicaNet) and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CIPSES) directly repudiated the United States’ anti-Communist “dirty war” and its attendant human rights abuses through people-to-people missions. Following this, the interfaith group Pastors for Peace broke the US trade and travel embargo on Cuba by sending a “Friendshipment” of food and medical supplies when the country was ravaged by the post-Soviet “special period” in 1992. The project ends with a consideration of the connections between these campaigns and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2011 by delivering aid by sea, only to be repelled by deadly force.

Irene Routté
Doctoral Candidate
School of Social Work and Department of Anthropology
Grad Certificate in African Studies

Irene Routté is a doctoral candidate in the joint program in Social Work and Anthropology.  Her work focuses on youth experience of forced migration, displacement and resettlement and the ways that connection to changing landscapes through processes of forced movement impact subject construction and wellbeing. She is also interested in the ways that race, racialization and anti-blackness influence migration policy and how it is enshrined in spatial practices around attachment, containment and mobility. Irene has been awarded a Bennetta Jules-Rosette Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology for her writing. She has co-authored pieces found in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Refuge and the Journal of the Society of Social Work and Research. Irene is also a practicing social worker (MSW) with over fifteen years of practice experience with refugee youth and youth organizing and leadership development.

Project Description:
“Landscapes of (Im)Mobility: Congolese Refugee Youth, the U.S. Resettlement System and Spatial Negotiations of Belonging" examines how Congolese refugee youth experience and understand belonging through changing racial-spatial arrangements in a new city of  resettlement. Racial-spatial experiences of belonging and constructions of subject-citizenship from a youth perspective often contradict practices and discourses around citizenship, integration and belonging that arise in the resettlement services ecosystem that includes policy actors, social welfare systems and every day resettlement practitioners. Using a multi-modal ethnographic approach, the project points to the ways in which various spatial discourses, policies and practices employed by resettlement actors, bring about certain categories of social difference that further particular socio-political claims/claims of belonging. The project’s focus on including both refugee youth experience, and the policies and practices of the refugee resettlement system, is integral for comprehending the present limits and possibilities of social cohesion in the U.S.

Collin Sullivan
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Political Science

Collin Sullivan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. He is pursuing a dual PhD in Political Science and Scientific Computing, and a graduate certificate in complex systems. His research interests include applications of formal theory and complex systems methodology to the prediction, prevention, and mitigation of human rights abuses, political violence, atrocities, and genocide. Collin has worked for more than ten years as a human rights practitioner, training human rights defenders, activists, journalists, researchers, observers, monitors, and others around the world on secure and strategic documentation of human rights abuses, and on open source investigative techniques and methods. He has been a Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Technology Advisory Board to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He continues to partner with and support human rights defenders in their work.

Project Description:
This project seeks to address a major challenge in human rights advocacy work: that there is a massive power and resource asymmetry between small human rights groups and the states they seek to influence. Because of this asymmetry, human rights groups must be extremely efficient in order to be effective. Where should they focus their very limited resources? This research applies methods from complexity science and systems dynamics to develop a systems model of state repression that can help to identify so-called "leverage points" -- places in a system where a small change can have large effects on system outcomes. In addition to finding these influential points, should they exist, a systems model can also provide rigorously-informed expectations about patterns of repression, including whether a particular constellation of system elements is likely to result in a stable repressive equilibrium, or in cycles of repression, and what sorts of changes lead to expected stability and systemic, self-sustaining incentives for human rights protection.