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Jennifer Orange, JHI-Mellon Graduate Fellow in Law, 2017-2018

Jennifer Orange, JHI-Mellon Graduate Fellow in Law, 2017-2018

Project Description:  Museums are increasingly using human rights discourse in their exhibitions and programs and my dissertation questions the implications of this work for international human rights law. Museums, such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, are presenting exhibits and programs that address contemporary human rights struggles and using their unique skill sets and established audiences to promote informed debate, reduce stigma and magnify the voices of marginalized groups. They are challenging dominant social values through exhibits and educational programs in ways traditionally assigned to legal institutions, such as human rights commissions. Museums’ trusted position as cultural institutions, together with their expertise in knowledge collection, education and cross-cultural dialogue, provide a unique advantage in addressing the complex problems people face in their every day lives. My work investigates how museums engage communities in human rights projects and questions the implications of this work for our understanding of international human rights law. Through an analysis of museum practice and its connections with legal processes, I identify both strengths and weaknesses in the use of law as a tool to realize human rights and emphasize the need for institutional partnerships.


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