Research Cluster

Human Rights and the Humanities

Blue arched building
Bringing together scholars and practitioners specialising in journalism, theatre-making, playwriting, filmmaking, film theory and literature, our research explores the role of the media and the arts in conflict and post-conflict settings around the world and in situations where disregard of human rights and statelessness are the result of political and legal actions supported by exclusionary ideological frameworks. 

Working on topics such as conflict communication, testimony, freedom of expression, statelessness and the performance of protest, a focus on lived practices is central to our approach. We also bring the critical methodologies of the humanities to bear upon the aesthetics and ethics of human rights representations.

Our research is outward-facing and seeks to engage with different cultural institutions and civil society groups on human rights and social justice issues.

Our partnerships have included Amnesty International, iceandfire theatre company, Performing Conflict Network, Mercury Theatre, Ariadne women’s theatre collective, Ubumuntu Arts Festival, The Mosaic Rooms, Dah Teatar, Observatorio Migrantes del Caribe, Article 19 – MENA, and the National Syndicate for Tunisian Journalists

 

Research strands

There are four major strands to our research within this cluster.

  • exploring the role of the media and arts in transitional justice, particularly art as a tool of therapy and reparation for atrocity survivors
  • empirical research into practices of journalism, theatre-making, and filmmaking, in contexts of crisis, conflict and political change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region which challenges abstract theoretical models of Western journalism and Film Studies
  • reflecting on the experience of trauma in testimony through creative practice (playwriting, verbatim theatre and filmmaking) and critical studies of witnessing practices in literature and film
  • research into migration and border relations, exploring notions of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ in the context of human rights.  

Please contact our academics directly to discuss research supervision opportunities, or explore our research degrees and what to expect from a degree in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies. You can also find out how to apply for postgraduate research at Essex, or use research finder if you are interested in searching for further research opportunities at Essex.

La Frontera domínico haitiana: pasado y presente 

In October 2017, on the 80th anniversary of the 1937 massacre of Haitian and Haitian-Dominicans in the Dominican borderland, Maria Cristina Fumagalli and Bridget Wooding, supported by ESRC/UoE and OBMICA, travelled to the border crossing of Elías Piña (DR)/Belladère (Haiti) where they organized a series of commemorative activities aimed at celebrating and promoting solidarity and harmony among the two peoples sharing the island of Hispaniola, at foregrounding the vibrant local/border culture, and at providing the opportunity to look at and rethink the future by reassessing the past. This video recounts what happened on that day.

Highlights of research

Research projects

Recent research projects funded by the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, AHRC Global Challenges Fund, and ESRC/University of Essex Impact Acceleration Fund include:

Publications

  • 'On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic'

Maria Cristina Fumagalli’s book On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (2015) was reissued as a paperback by Liverpool University Press in 2018.

  • ‘To be creative is to exist’: rejecting resilience, enacting Sumud in the cultural resistance of ASHTAR theatre

Annecy Lax’s article, ‘To be creative is to exist’: rejecting resilience, enacting Sumud in the cultural resistance of ASHTAR theatre was published in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre And Performance in 2021.

  • ‘Beyond good and evil? Popular songs, mathemes and bus rides (art and transition in the region of the former Yugoslavia)’

Sanja Bahun, ‘Beyond good and evil? Popular songs, mathemes and bus rides (art and transition in the region of the former Yugoslavia)’, Media, War & Conflict Vol. 13, no. 1 (2020): 70–87.

  • 'The Arab Spring: Micro Dynamics of Revolt between Change and Continuity'

Fatima El Issawi and Francesco Cavatorta (Eds.). The Arab Spring: Micro Dynamics of Revolt between Change and Continuity. London: Gingko, 2020.

  • 'Media, Accountability and Dissent in the Middle East and North Africa'

Fatima El Issawi and Jonathan Hill are editing a special issue on ‘Media, Accountability and Dissent in the Middle East and North Africa’ for The International Journal of Press Politics, expected in June 2021.

  • ‘Alternative Public Spaces in Hybrid Media Environments: Dissent in High Uncertainty'

Fatima El Issawi, ‘Alternative Public Spaces in Hybrid Media Environments: Dissent in High Uncertainty’, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 2021 (published online).

  • ‘“Telegenically dead Palestinians”: Cinema, News Media and Perception Management of the Gaza Conflicts’

Shohini Chaudhuri’s chapter, ‘“Telegenically dead Palestinians”: Cinema, News Media and Perception Management of the Gaza Conflicts’ appears in Global Humanitarianism and Media Culture, edited by Michael Lawrence and Rachel Tavernor, published by Manchester University Press in 2019.

Talks

 

Cluster members

Maria Cristina Fumagalli
Professor, Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Research interests: Caribbean literatures, art and cinema; literature and place; border studies (especially concerning the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic); literature and the environment; migration and literature; human rights and literature; literature and the visual arts; contemporary poetry; literary and filmic rewritings, adaptations, translation and comparative studies; contemporary Caribbean and US relations (especially regarding the Dominican and Haitian Diasporas); the work of Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Junot Diaz, and Edwidge Danticat; postcolonial studies; women writing; Italian cinema and literature
Sanja Bahun
Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education and Professor (R), Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Research interests: comparative literature; psychoanalysis; womens and gender studies; the arts and transitional justice
Fatima El Issawi
Reader, Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Research interests: Media and Democratization; Arab Media; Journalistic Practices and Models; Media Systems; Media in Transitions; Media Policy
Annecy Lax
Dean of Partnerships (Education) and Senior Lecturer (R), Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Postgraduate Research Student, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Nic Blower
Senior Lecturer, Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Mary Mazzilli
Senior Lecturer, Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Research interests: Chinese and East-Asian Theatre; World and Global Theatres and Literatures; Postdramatic Theatres; Modernism/Postmodernism in drama and literature; Post-war British theatre and theatres in Europe; Contemporary Theatre Practices (directing and producing); Dramaturgy and Playwriting (PaR and Creative practices); Comparative Drama and Literature; Gender Studies and Women's writing
Shohini Chaudhuri
Head of Department - Professor (R), Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Research interests: notions of world cinema, intercultural and transnational cinema; film and human rights; gender and feminist theory; film theory and affect