Human Rights Defender Student Travel Award


The Human Rights Defender Travel Award provides a $750 travel scholarship each year for a student to attend the annual meetings of the Society. The competition for the Human Rights Defender Travel Award will be held in December, and will be presented at the Annual Meeting. The results of the competition will be announced in February.

The Human Rights Defender Award was made possible by a generous contribution from Michael Cavendish, a Sustaining Member of the Society who is a practicing attorney in Florida and a strong advocate of human rights. As a graduate student, he was first exposed to the link between applied anthropology and disciplines like law, journalism and social work.



One award of $750 will be available to students who meet the eligibility qualifications. 


  • Individuals must have been enrolled as a student during some part of the current year

  • Submitted a paper or poster abstract which has been accepted for the annual meeting program.

The Human Rights Defender Award winner will receive a scholarship of $750 toward their travel expenses to attend the SfAA annual meeting.

Application and Deadline

Application & Deadline

To apply, an eligible student should prepare a brief (one-page) statement which describes their interest in human rights, and the conjunction of this topic to their applied research interests. The statement may include a description of prior and/or current human rights advocacy activities in which the student has engaged. 

Online Application

The deadline for submission is December 20. The results of the competition will be announced in January.

Judgment Process

Judgment Process

The Society will receive and review the applications for this Award with the same logistical process that is used for the other student travel awards (Del Jones, Edward Spicer and Beatrice Medicine). An established committee, appointed by the President, will review and judge the one-page statements as well as the abstract that was submitted for the Program. In assessing the statements, Committee members will frame their evaluation with the following questions:

  • Does the statement document the participation of the applicant in any prior activities, which advocate human rights?
  • Does the statement reflect careful thinking about the linkage between human rights and applied social sciences?
  • Does the statement explore, and to what degree, the assertion that the study of human rights holds the potential to enhance professional development in the social sciences?
  • Is the abstract that the applicant submitted for the program connected in any way with human rights?

In preparing the statement, applicants should keep in mind the vision of Mr. Cavendish in establishing this Award:

"United Nations Resolution 53/144 states the human rights defenders are vital everywhere and that anyone can be a human rights defender... The vision [for this award] is that each year a group of studetns are exposed to the potential for their enhanced  professional development through the study of human rights... and that the award name as it circulates through the proceedings of the Society will serve as a gentle but permanent advertisment for the role of applied anthropology in the advancement of human rights."

Previous Recipients


Julia Quintero

Quintero.pngJulia Quintero is a Master’s student at Texas State University studying cultural anthropology.  She holds a BA in Anthropology from California State University, Chico. 

Julia’s research centers around (im)migration, human rights, gender studies and activism. Her thesis reconstructs the life histories of migrant women who have disappeared or died while crossing the US-Mexico border. These stories are shared in an effort to both humanize migrant women who are regarded as numbers rather than people and to critique inhuman border policies that regulate the violence migrants face. This research is framed within Chicana/o scholarship and serves as a form of resistance, where families of the oppressed have the opportunity to share their stories and aid in knowledge building regarding migrant experiences in the borderlands. 

This work is in collaboration with Colibrí Center for Human Rights, an organization that helps families of disappeared migrants by identifying and honoring those who have died on the US-Mexico border. Julia has previously worked with Colibrí on their storytelling projects, interviewing families and editing audio into podcast formats for education curricula and museum exhibits. Julia is currently interning with Operation Identification (OpID), a program based out of Texas State University that aims to identify and repatriate the remains of presumed migrants. OpID has given Julia the opportunity to see other layers of migrant identification work through a medico-legal lens. 

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, this work is deeply personal to Julia and she hopes to continue advocating for migrants and their families through her work. 


Amanda Lubit

Lubit.jpegAmanda Lubit is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast. She positions her research at the intersection of the anthropology of migration and the anthropology of violence. Her research interests lie in gendered and embodied aspects of social suffering, violence, repression, and racism among women migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in urban contexts. Her doctoral dissertation is based upon a two-year ethnography with Muslim women living in post-conflict Belfast, Northern Ireland during Brexit. It explores the social suffering produced by immigration regimes including the impacts of structural violence, racism, and hate crime on the bodies, visibility, and movement of religious and racial minorities. It also examines creative ways women challenge and resist these restrictions to make a place for themselves. 

Amanda’s work has already had practical and policy implication, promoting ways to address gendered and racial inequities. She contributed to a judicial review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland and created commissioned reports for a local minority-led think tank to engage with policymakers in addressing racism, hate crime, and discrimination in health, housing, and education. She also has an upcoming publication in the Journal of Intercultural Studies on the conflicting temporalities of refugee mothers living separated from children and other family. She has also been the reviews editor for the Irish Journal of Anthropology since 2020 and co-edited a recent special issue for that journal.  

Amanda previously earned a master’s degree in anthropology (Portland State University), a master’s degree in public health (Tufts University), and a graduate certificate in refugee trauma (Harvard University). She also spent five years working with public service agencies, policymakers and community organizations at the local, federal and international level on HIV/AIDS, homelessness, pandemics, disaster, food security and displacement.


kanugulaSamanvi Kanugula

I am an undergraduate student at Northwestern University, studying Global Health and Sociology on the pre-med track. I currently work in the Young Research Group under Dr. Sera L. Young and Patrick Mbullo. My research interests include the negative impacts of water insecurity on the well-being of women, specifically the impact of household water insecurity on women’s social capital in western Kenya. Seven hundred million people across 43 countries currently experience water insecurity. Stripped of their right to water, women not only succumb to physical health consequences but many detrimental psychosocial consequences, which overall diminishes their quality of life. The economic impacts of water insecurity have been researched previously, but there is a lack of research on how household water insecurity impacts women’s social capital.

Through the Young Research Group, I had the opportunity to pursue my research interests and study the pathways by which greater water insecurity lead to diminished social capital amongst women. Social capital is an important pathway to understanding household and individual health outcomes, which can help us advocate for policies to increase water availability and accessibility. In December 2019, I had the opportunity to present my findings at Global Health Day hosted by Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, alongside medical students and physicians. My research cultivated my passion to work toward long-term, sustainable solutions to combat water insecurity around the world.


Alessia González

2019 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Alessia GonzalezMy name is Alessia González, I am 24 years old, I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala in a middle class. I identify myself as a sexual dissident and mestizo-Ladino-Latina. Identifying oneself in this way entails recognizing the privileges that being read as ladino in Guatemala entails, just as being Latina means recognizing the sociocultural process that impacted my life as a daughter of an immigrant mother and living in the United States for several years as an immigrant.

I have a B.A in Anthropology and Sociology from Universidad del Valle and I am in the process of obtaining a bachelor's degree in anthropology. My lines of action for the fulfillment of human rights are in terms of gender equity and sexual diversity, which start from the analysis of critical anthropology and decolonial feminisms and queer theories. I have worked in Flacso (Faculty of Social Sciences in Guatemala) as a research assistant in the "Program of methodology in social research", worked on a study on violence in work spaces for lesbians, gays and trans people in the Program of Studies of Gender in Flacso, in AVANCSO (Association for the Advancement of Social Sciences in Guatemala) facilitating workshops on sexist and racist violence with teachers of primary and secondary education. Finally, I worked in an investigation on access to health in trans women and gay men with PASMO and UVG, from this last project my current thesis topic arises. Positioning myself as an academic feminist and activist since the dissidence allowed me access to carry out my fieldwork in my project on access and health barriers for trans women in Guatemala City from the perspective of health providers that provide services to trans women . Understanding access to health involves a questioning of how to conceptualize access to health rights from different points of view? It is there where anthropology plays a fundamental role. In line with activism, my first personal activism project was "Todos Somos #Carne y hueso", a virtual movement and artistic exhibition about symbolic violence in bodies in the city, with which I expand my need to participate in different political spaces. Funde the first group of gender, equity and sexual diversity (Club GED UVG GT) in a private university in Guatemala and be part of the student movement with UVG Action, which arises from the manifestations of 2015 in the country, I was voluntary at the Woman Center and the Pride Center as an exchange student during an The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) scholarships in Saskatoon, Canada. I am currently working on a collective project that links feminism and sexual dissidence with healing and dance, with which we want to create safe spaces for the bodies of the feminist movement and sexual diversity in Guatemala City.


Sarah Davenport

2018 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Sarah DavenportI am an undergraduate honors cultural anthropology student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. My research interests are at the intersection of urban and environmental anthropology as well as food studies. My experiences as a person of color and environmentalist, as well as my work in local food/environmental justice initiatives and politics, underpin my interest in the complexities of socio-environmental injustice and the need to address such inequities. I believe that it is imperative that I situate my research in U.S. urban areas given the complexities of American racial inequality and the lack of critical analysis of food (in)security as an environmental justice issue in urban communities. My ethnographic research from 2016-2018 has focused on racial and socioeconomic aspects of environmental injustices in Orlando, Florida. I critically examine the agenda and practices of Fleet Farming, a non-profit, urban-farming organization, focusing on data collection with local activists and relevant policy analysis. My work traces Fleet Farming’s first branch expansion from an upper-middle class, predominantly white neighborhood, to Parramore, a historically African-American, low-income neighborhood. Understanding the socially inequitable context of Parramore (i.e., residents’ experiences of racial and socio-economic marginalization) help crystalize my research question: How does Fleet Farming consider the racial and socioeconomic inequalities associated with food insecurity in marginalized communities? My research demonstrates that without an understanding of the deeply rooted social inequalities associated with food insecurity, such initiatives can serve to perpetuate inequities they purport to resolve. Following my study, Fleet Farming has been able to incorporate my research findings to reflect upon how their urban farming project in Parramore fuels gentrification and the City of Orlando’s development projects, and therefore reconsider their projects from a new and fresh perspective with greater attention to social justice issues. Based on this research, I wrote an article manuscript that is currently under review by the Journal of Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment. I will be presenting my research findings at the Society for Applied Anthropology annual conference in Philadelphia, PA, in April 2018. Though this research did not require funding resources, I was able to continue my education while conducting this research with the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, the Horatio Alger Scholarship, the Women’s P.E.O Scholarship, the UCF Integrative Learning Scholarship, and other education grants from UCF. 

Following my study, I was invited to serve as a research intern with Fleet Farming, in order to better connect the organization and Parramore residents and community leaders. This engaged work facilitates Fleet Farming’s understanding of the deep mistrust Parramore residents have of such programs and works to provide a socio-environmental justice framework for their mission and practices.

Following my graduation in spring 2018, I will continue my scholarship in a PhD program in anthropology, and intend to expand research on food justice in low-income, minority, and urban communities. I hope my future research politicizes the ways researchers think about food acquisition in the urban U.S. and encourages anthropologists to critically examine issues of race and food at home. Additionally, as a woman of color in higher education and a lifelong McNair Scholar, I will always endeavor to serve as a resource and role model for underrepresented and underserved students and academics.


Kristina Hook

2017 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Kristina HookKristina Hook is dual doctoral student in anthropology and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology and Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.  She is also a Kellogg Institute for International Studies PhD Fellow.

Kristina is a Fellow with the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP). She has published on topics including genocide, mass violence, post-conflict reconstruction, humanitarian lessons learned and methods of merging theory and practice in sustainable development programming.

For her dissertation, Kristina is conducting fieldwork in Ukraine on the violence dynamics of the Soviet-era Holodomor mass atrocities and how this legacy continues to ripple across modern Ukrainian society.  Her dissertation fieldwork is fully funded through a USAID/Notre Dame Global Development Fellowship.  Since coming to Notre Dame, Kristina has presented her research in locations including Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Czech Republic. 

Kristina previously earned an M.A. degree in international development and a graduate certificate in humanitarian assistance from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, as well as a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Florida. Prior to her doctoral studies, she served as a Policy Officer in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations and as a Political Officer in a U.S. Embassy abroad. In 2013, she was awarded a United States Presidential Management Fellowship.  In 2015, she was awarded the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award. 


Tristan Call

2016 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Tristan CallTristan Call is a PhD student in the Vanderbilt Anthropology Department, specializing in research on migrant labor, agriculture, and people's history. After graduating from Brigham Young University and spending several years doing participatory ethnography with peasant unions in the struggle for land reform in Guatemala, he began studying the processes of dispossession and alliance-building among Tennessee farm laborers, research which forms the basis of his current dissertation work. He uses collaborative social-movement centered methods to engage in participatory worker-to-worker research and popular education work with movement organizations such as Workers' Dignity, Nashville Fair Food, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. He is based out of the Nashville Greenlands community, an agrarian social justice collaborative in North Nashville.


Nolan Kline

2015 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Nolan KlineNolan Kline is a PhD candidate in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida (USF), where he is also pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health. Prior to beginning his doctoral program, Nolan completed an MA in Applied Anthropology from USF, and a BA in Anthropology from Rollins College.   

Nolan’s research has broadly centered on health rights for immigrant and farmworker populations and focused on ways in which academic pursuits can align with activist organizations’ efforts to address pressing needs. As an undergraduate student, Nolan developed a collaborative relationship with a Central Florida farmworker organization to advance efforts to address health needs among a group of African American former-farmworkers.  During his Master’s degree program, Nolan explored access to dental care for Latino migrant farmworkers in the Tampa Bay area, and through this project, provided data to a non-profit organization that offered health services to farmworkers that assisted the organization’s funding efforts.

Most recently, Nolan has explored the intersection of health rights for immigrants and immigration policy in the United States. Nolan’s dissertation research explores how federal immigration laws converge with state immigration policies and local police practices in Atlanta, GA, to impact undocumented Latino immigrant communities and their ability to seek health services. In Georgia, state immigration laws grant police authority to stop and arrest any person suspected of being undocumented. Arrests can also occur through routine law enforcement practices, such as enforcing traffic codes, but due to federal policies such as Secure Communities and Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any arrest can initiate the deportation processes. As a result of these immigration policies, driving or being visible in public spaces puts undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation, ultimately constricting immigrants’ mobility.

Findings from Nolan’s fieldwork suggest that immigrant policing infringes upon fundamental rights related to movement and mobility, impacting several aspects of life, including where immigrants feel safe in seeking health services. Exploring how immigrant rights organizations responded to broad forms of immigrant policing and the promotion of fear through local law enforcement tactics, Nolan drew from principles of engaged and activist anthropology to join immigrant rights organizations in Atlanta and participated in in “know your rights” campaigns and aided activist groups in organizing political demonstrations. Experiences from his fieldwork suggest needed policy intervention and future activist action to continue immigrant rights efforts.   


Beth Geglia

2014 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Beth GegliaBeth Geglia is a PhD student at American University with particular interests in Economic, Ecological, and Feminist Anthropology.  She received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin in Madison with majors in Sociology, International Political Economy and Latin American Studies with a certificate in Global Cultures. Beth’s student activism in the fair trade movement, the anti-war movement, and local labor and immigrant rights organizing solidified her interest in social and economic human rights in relation to neoliberal globalization and various forms of structural violence. Through work with producer cooperatives in Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala she became convinced of the importance of supporting grassroots movements that are building economic democracy through alternative economies.

Between 2007-2010 Beth worked with Guatemalan communities impacted by global extractive industries and facing potential displacement from their lands, militarization and conflict, and severe environmental contamination. Acting as a liaison between Guatemalan indigenous movements and international human rights organizations, she helped to develop international campaign strategies to defend the right to free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples and to counter the criminalization of human rights defenders. Upon moving back to the U.S. she earned a Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Since then, she has partnered with different organizations to produce videos on domestic workers in DC, women labor organizers in Central America, musicians in post-coup Honduras, the first ever International People’s Health Tribunal on health and the mining industry, and most recently the First Garifuna Hospital of Honduras. This last project, which she co-directed with Canadian journalist Jesse Freeston, tells the story of Garifuna communities’ efforts to organize a free healthcare system on Honduras’ northern coast and defend healthcare as a basic human right. The film is now being used as an educational and organizing tool by various community organizations and universities.


Ruth Elizabeth Goldstein

2013 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Ruth Elizabeth GoldsteinMy dissertation project stems from over ten-years of engaged research into human rights issues, with a particular focus on women. In 2001, I left for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, “The Dialectics of Implementation: Women’s Human Rights and Health Reforms” in Mali, South Africa, Uganda, and Morocco. I worked with local NGOs, researching the recommendations from the U.N.’s International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Platform for Women. In Mali, I researched female genital cutting (FGC); in South Africa, HIV/AIDS; in Uganda, gender-based violence inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); and in Morocco, domestic violence. I sought to understand how these countries were implementing such wide-ranging human rights laws when many of them conflicted with the diversity of cultural practices of their people. To do this, I needed talk to the people affected by the human rights reforms or lack thereof. Over the course of the year I lived with families, worked in schools and with local nonprofits, struggling to learn with working proficiency Bambara, IsiXhosa, Buganda, and Moroccan Arabic.

Since then, I have maintained my affiliations with human rights NGOs in those four countries in Africa, but have shifted regional focus to Latin America. In 2010, I left for two years of fieldwork in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, researching the traffic of women, gold, and plants employed as natural Viagras along the Interoceanic Road. The Interoceanic Road, Latin America’s newest and longest runs from Brazil’s Atlantic Coast to Peru’s Pacific Coast, dipping into Bolivia, facilitating easy access to once impassable land in the Peruvian Amazon, flush with streams of gold. The rise in the price of gold has made it worthwhile to mine for gold dust, transformed into solid form via mercury.  My doctoral project addresses the massive internal migration from the Peruvian Andes to Peru’s Amazonian region of Madre de Dios, the resulting deforestation and mercury-contamination as well as the trespassing onto indigenous lands, labor exploitation and (forced) prostitution along the side of the road.

To address the proliferating human rights issues in the tri-frontier area and abuses that impacted women in particular, I joined with governmental, nongovernmental, healthcare and pastoral workers to form a multilateral working group on gender-based violence (La Mesa Multisectorial para la Integración del Enfoque de Género en el Desarrollo Regional de Madre de Dios). The group’s collaborative efforts to investigate and push for protective measures for women by domestic violence and sexual violence from sex-trafficking has led to an increased attention from law-enforcement officials. A women’s police force, crackdowns on sexual exploitation and growing programs in schools to teach sexual health and awareness have begun in a region where there had, until recently, been no paved road.

The questions of when and why one intervenes remain a constant one for me as an anthropologist. The ways in which social scientists, human rights workers and policy-makers imagine human agency affects human rights interventions and laws. Questions of how and when to intervene as well as what kind of intervention is appropriate pursue me as much as I pursue them. When must someone be protected against themselves or against others and what gives one human the right to make that judgment for another?  When does the very act of writing about human atrocities and characterizing them as human rights abuses signify a kind of humanitarian intervention? Where is, and how does one come to, and write “the end”? How does anthropology (re)produce notions of the body, gender, race, and humanity at large?  These questions are at the core of my research and I believe that they have ramifications for human rights laws and anthropological practices, interventions and abstentions. 


Jonas Ecke

2012 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Jonas EckeI became fascinated by the cultural hybridism of development aid distributed by Pentecostal Christian ministries in Africa during a three-months stay in Ghana in the summer of 2007. As part of fulfilling the requirements of my M.Sc. in ‘Development and International Relations’ at the University of Aalborg in Denmark, I undertook a three-month internship with the development aid organization CARE Gulf of Guinea (CARE GoG) in Accra, Ghana.  As I began to conduct research on Pentecostalism in Ghana, I discovered that the popularity of Pentecostal teachings among Ghanaians seemed to stand in sharp contrast to the ideologies propagated by secular Western agencies, for example “Empowerment” and “Sustainable Livelihood” concepts. I subsequently learned through conversations that many Ghanaians were very attracted by the promises of the Pentecostal “Prosperity Gospel,” according to which religious devoutness leads to improvements in economic wellbeing. By contrast, Ghanaians felt less confident that secular aid agencies could meet their basic needs. My observations were later reinforced through research on West African Pentecostalism to fulfill the requirements of my multidisciplinary M.Sc. degree at Aalborg University. It was at this time when I began to realize that the mainly quantitative research framework and top-down, non-experiential process of generating theories from my previous political science and international relationship studies were ill-suited to pursue such questions. Because of this realization I applied for the graduate program in anthropology at Purdue University.

During an exploratory research trip to Ghana in the winter of 2010, I visited the refugee camp Buduburam - an experience that compelled me to concretize my research focus and field location. I returned to Buduburam for a two months stay in the summer of 2011 to conduct research. I intend to return in subsequent years. The situation of refugees in Buduburam is one of the most complicated prolonged refugee crises in West Africa. Tens of thousands of Liberians have fled to Buduburam in the last two decades. In light of the formal end to hostilities in Liberia, most inhabitants of Buduburam are no longer considered refugees according to international law. Therefore, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has ceased to resettle Liberians in Ghana and asks them to integrate into Ghanaian society, which many refugees find difficult to do for economic and cultural reasons. Against the backdrop of this difficult situation, many of the Liberians in Ghana convert to Pentecostalism and join one of the numerous makeshift churches that exist in the camp.  My research will explore the role of religion in processes of identity-reconstruction and the coping mechanisms of refugees, as well as the relationship between religious experience and memory of war and displacement.

Furthermore, I have involved myself in human rights activism work while simultaneously pursuing my education during the past years. My efforts have been guided by the conviction that academia and activism work can yield great benefits through cross-fertilization. For example, I founded an Amnesty International chapter at the University of Bremen in Germany, which continued to mobilize students and faculty members long after I finished my undergraduate degree. Building on these personally enriching and empowering experiences, I founded the first European CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict) chapter at the University of Aalborg.  During the fall of 2011 I served for the West Africa working group of Amnesty International Germany.  My first-hand experiences in Buduburam give me invaluable insights into human rights issues that are of central importance in the West African region. Throughout my time in Buduburam, I did not only hear personal accounts of human rights conditions in Ghana and Liberia, but also of various other West African countries. Many Liberians, whom I have interviewed, have gone through stages of “circular migration” through Liberia’s neighboring countries.  Nowadays, many West Africans from countries like the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Guinea are settling in the camp.  Their life-histories inform my research and activism on West Africa.


Marnie Thomson

2011 Human Rights Defender Award Winner Marnie ThomsonAs an undergraduate, I attended Washington University in St. Louis. I took my first anthropology course during my first semester – Introduction to Physical Anthropology – and was awed by both the professor and the subject matter. I knew I had chosen the correct major during my sophomore year when I discovered that all the courses I wanted to take were listed under anthropology. I studied abroad with St. Lawrence University’s Kenya Semester Program during my junior year. The program allowed me to study in Nairobi, hunt and gather with the Hadza, herd with Samburu pastoralists, live on a farm in Meru, and conduct an independent research project with an HIV/AIDS outreach program in the slums of Nairobi. After graduation, I took a gap year to live and work in Auckland, New Zealand, and traveled around the country. I returned to the US to earn a Masters of Arts degree in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. My thesis grew out of my observation of a trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) while studying abroad. I argued that the Tribunal creates an official memory of the genocide while simultaneously erasing important elements of it. I am currently a PhD student in anthropology at the University of Colorado, and my research interests have shifted from Rwanda to the related conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specifically, I conduct my fieldwork with Congolese refugees who live in Tanzania. Since 2007, the UNHCR and Tanzania have closed eleven of their thirteen refugee camps and are currently implementing repatriation programs in the final two camps. My research has two goals: (1) to understand the politics of this particular form of humanitarian intervention and its effects on Congolese refugees and (2) to understand the story of the ongoing conflict in eastern provinces of the DRC from the refugees’ perspective.

I always found the debates about cultural relativism versus human rights overly simplistic, but tied up with my frustration was a desire to defend human rights as an anthropologist. Thus, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when my interest arose, but I think it really solidified into both an academic and practical pursuit during my first visit to Nyarugusu camp for Congolese refugees in 2008. I have returned to the camp every year since, and refugees have shared stories of the violence they experienced in Congo and their efforts to qualify for resettlement within the UN camp. Many have had their cases dismissed or disqualified without receiving any explanation. Without qualifying for resettlement in a third country, these refugees will be forced to return to the DRC when Nyarugusu closes. Refugees ask me not to accompany them to the registration center, where resettlement claims are filed, for fear that the aid workers – most of whom are Tanzanian – will believe they are trying to gain favor for their case. I do, however, meet with international aid representatives, usually in regional offices located outside of the camp, to present individual cases for resettlement on behalf of refugees and advocate for their human rights, particularly the rights to asylum, nationality, and freedom of residence. When I ask about these rights, aid representatives both in the camp and elsewhere explain that they are bound by UNHCR resettlement protocols and quotas. As I conduct more research on the relationship between human rights and humanitarianism, I will continue to advocate for refugees and their human rights.

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