Challenging Borders in Domestic and International Human Rights Conference

April 30 – May 2, 2023 at Albion College

The Challenging Borders in Domestic and International Human Rights conference will explore and critically evaluate the borders that have been created in human rights research and practice. Albion College invites faculty students, staff and community leaders from GLCA and GLAA campuses to interrogate the borders that have been built in the human rights field between the domestic and international and between categories of rights.

Challenging the borders between the domestic and the international

Frequently, human rights are conceived in international terms with marginal attention directed to the ways that human rights issues manifest domestically. Yet human rights issues are all around us. If we look carefully, we can find them in our neighborhoods, on our college campuses and in our own closets. There are benefits to considering human rights as a framework for addressing domestic challenges like systemic racism, labor exploitation, immigration and environmental degradation. Additionally, many human rights challenges are transnational in scope. Refugees and migrants often cross international borders when their rights are violated domestically. The impacts of climate change disregard state sovereignty. In an increasingly interdependent world with a global economy, racial discrimination, and sex and labor exploitation are global problems. The impacts of environmental degradation are disproportionately suffered by marginalized populations. Transnational problems require responses at both the domestic and international level.

Challenging borders between categories of rights

Human rights are equal, interdependent and require universal protection. To say that human rights are interdependent is to say that the enjoyment of any single right or group of rights requires the enjoyment of other rights. This means that political and civil rights (e.g. the right to vote and freedom from discrimination) are necessary for formulating and fulfilling economic, social and cultural (ESC) needs (e.g. access to adequate housing, water, education and work). Similarly, violations of ESC rights limit our ability to exercise our political and civil rights. In short, human beings must possess the entire spectrum of human rights to lead a life of dignity. We welcome proposals that are conceptual — about the equal value of rights — and those that are applied illustrating interdependence in practice.

Topical areas of focus

Within the conference theme of challenging borders, we imagine four areas of focus:

  1. Identity rights, especially focusing on race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality;
  2. Labor rights;
  3. Refugee and migrant rights; and
  4. Environmental and climate rights.

We particularly encourage projects that work at the intersection of these areas – for example, projects on environmental racism or labor exploitation of immigrants. While we encourage submissions along these four themes, proposals on other human rights topics are also welcome.

Conference Format

Academic presentations

The conference will feature several research panels where faculty-student research teams will present their scholarship in interactive, in-person presentations followed by a question and answer discussion. While our primary goal is to highlight collaborative faculty and student work, scholars may also submit individual research proposals. For undergraduate students to be eligible, however, they must be part of a faculty-student research partnership or be doing capstone- or thesis-level research under the direct supervision of a faculty member.

Roundtable discussions

The conference will include two faculty roundtables. The first will address conference themes. The second roundtable will address human rights pedagogy and integrating experiential learning into human rights courses.

Training workshops

The conference will feature two workshops focused on advocacy methods, strategies and tactics. One workshop will be offered by a human rights practitioner and a second workshop will be offered by members of the Albion College Human Rights Lab.

Building cross-campus connections

Throughout the conference, participants will be encouraged, and have opportunities to establish new connections with their peers and explore future possibilities for cross-campus collaboration in the areas of human rights and social justice teaching, research and co-curricular programming.

Submitting a proposal

Albion College is accepting proposals for academic presentations and roundtable discussions. Submission deadline: October 14, 2022.

Academic Presentations

Accepted academic presentations will be formed into by panels by our conference chairs. They require a title (limited to 50 words), an abstract (limited to 200 words), three key words and at least one author. Presentation proposals submitted by undergraduates must either be submitted jointly with a faculty member as part of a research partnership or be a thesis or capstone research project directly supervised by a faculty member. The latter requires a statement of faculty sponsorship.

Submit Proposal for Academic Presentation


We are accepting proposals for two different expert roundtables: One that addresses conference themes and a pedagogy roundtable that features a discussion of experiential learning practices. Proposals to participate in a roundtable require you to identify the roundtable you would like to participate in and to submit a description (limited to 250 words) of the content you would like to contribute and your qualifications to do so.

Submit Proposal for Roundtable Participation

Travel grants

International participants from Global Liberal Arts Alliance member institutions will be eligible to apply for travel support. Information on how to submit a travel grant request will be provided to qualified presenters.


This conference is generously funded by the Great Lakes College Association Global Crossroads Grant with planning and program support from Albion College, the Albion College Human Rights Lab, the School of Public Purpose and Professional Advancement, the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service, and the Center for Sustainability and the Environment.

Registration information, program details and hotel and travel information are forthcoming.