University of Connecticut

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Claim-making As Rights-making: Undocumented Migrants Reshaping International Human Rights Law

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
2:00pm – 3:30pm

Storrs Campus
Virtual Event

In this colloquium presentation, Jordan Dez will present her dissertation research, which explores the political rights of undocumented migrants using doctrinal analysis and qualitative fieldwork in Amsterdam. Despite their formal exclusion from political rights, migrants have long been politically active community members, playing an integral role in mobilizations that impact the scope of international human rights law (IHRL), domestic immigration policies, and the effective protection of human rights. Legal scholarship traditionally focuses on migrants as objects of IHRL, analyzing whether courts and states exclude migrants based on lack of migration status. Most pronounced among these doctrinal foreclosures is the exclusion of migrants from traditional political participation rights, such as the right to vote. This research project shifts the vector of investigation, focusing on the role of migrant political activity in developing the scope of rights protection, rather than the extent of the state’s right to exclude. Calling upon the work of political theorists who explore how rights subjectivity is constituted through the act of claim-making, this research explores the human rights to expression, assembly and association, which include undocumented migrants within their scope, as political rights. To this end, Jordan is currently engaged in fieldwork with three groups of undocumented migrant claim-makers in Amsterdam to learn how they use the protections of expression (PrintRights), assembly (Amsterdam City Rights) and association (Migrant Domestic Workers unionized with the FNV) to claim other human rights. This is an alternative read on Arendt’s proverbial “right to have rights” that goes straight to the democratic paradox between the liberal ideals of the IHRL system and the violent exclusion of democratic closure on which that system depends.

For registration;

Jordan Dez is a PhD researcher with the Faculty of Law at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Before joining the law faculty, Jordan practiced international and migration law in Salt Lake City. She studied anthropology at the University of Connecticut (BA), international development at the School for International Training (MA), and law at the University of Utah (JD). In her current research, Jordan combines her social sciences and legal backgrounds, employing an empirical legal methodology to study the human rights and rights claiming practices of undocumented migrants. This research project is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).


Imge Akaslan,

Human Rights Institute (primary), UConn Master Calendar

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