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Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights: Framing the Field

Inaugural Symposium, February 8 - 9, 2013

Click here for information about the upcoming 2015 DDHR Conference

The University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Department seeks to re-invigorate the holistic approach to research with a pioneering new program called Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights (DDHR). DDHR fosters intellectual and field-based collaborations with an emphasis on disasters, development, conflict, and post-conflict situations.

Although anthropology has long been touted as a holistic discipline, encompassing (and addressing) cultural and biological variation past and present, sub-disciplinary specialization has undermined holistic aspirations. Archaeological, biological, and cultural anthropologists have too often pursued disparate questions and seemingly incommensurable methods even when examining similar problems. The DDHR Program presents Anthropology with a unique opportunity to realize the potential of a unified approach.

The DDHR Symposium invites faculty, professionals, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students in Anthropology and related disciplines to explore ways of “framing the field”. Key questions we wish to pursue include:

  • Does sub-disciplinary collaboration begin in the field with practical experiences and reflection or is it necessary to establish a comprehensive theoretical framework prior to joint fieldwork?
  • What common denominators undergird the bridge between seemingly discrete phenomena such as development, disasters, and conflict?
  • If Anthropology is to carry out systematic and comprehensive long -term research on a host of interrelated problems, can we identify the similarities among these problems in which to ground theory and method?
  • Displacement and resettlement - whether caused by environmental crises, disaster, development, or conflict - are processes around which human rights violations and strategies for redress coalesce. How can we employ different anthropological models to study these respective crises and effectively address human rights issues in theory, method, and practice?
  • Are the triggers and results of modern disasters and conflicts products of the present? How can an approach grounded in time-depth provide important understanding and valuable tools for dealing with current crises?
  • How do we best integrate data from different sub-disciplines working on the same problem, such as both measuring and interpreting impacts on populations following a disaster or conflict?
  • Is knowing the fate of a loved one a universal need? Do personal identifications of the deceased have the same meaning cross-culturally? How is the process of "closure" defined in diverse settings and circumstances and what role, if any, do forensic and humanitarian workers play in this process?
  • How can we best assess, evaluate, and incorporate culturally-specific ideas and practices of justice into human rights investigations?  What are the critical differences between “forensic” and humanitarian investigations?
  • How can we train graduate students to abandon a silo approach in favor of a more holistic approach around the themes of DDHR?

We invite the submission of abstracts that explore these questions and related topics from specific sub-disciplinary and inter sub-disciplinary perspectives. Topical papers, works in progress, posters, papers addressing theory and method, as well as papers from other disciplines that provide unique insights into the themes of DDHR are welcome.

Co-sponsored by: Africana Studies; Center for the Study of Social Justice; College of Law; Forensic Anthropology Center; Global Studies; and the Philosophy; Political Science; Religious Studies; Sociology; and Geography Departments at the University of Tennessee.

General Information

View Full Symposium Program
View Full Schedule
View Schedule At-A-Glance

Conference Dates
February 8 - 9, 2013

Knoxville, TN

Key Note Speakers
Richard Wilson - Director of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut

Stefan Schmitt - International Forensic Program Director for Physicians for Human Rights

Deadline to Submit Abstracts
December 1, 2012
View Call for Papers
View Abstract Submission Form

Registration Information
View Registration Form
Registration deadlines
Early-bird: Jan 8, 2013
General: Jan 18, 2013

View Late Registration Form

Conference Hotel
Reservation deadline: Jan. 10
Four Points by Sheraton
Knoxville Cumberland House -
To make your reservation for the discounted rate of $99/night, call (865) 971-4663, mention group name, "DDHR Symposium"

Conference Contact
DDHR Committee at ddhr.utk@gmail

Click here to download the Symposium Flyer