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DDHR Webinar Series

DDHR Webinars draw critical attention to contemporary social crises as they impinge upon the physical, social, and economic well-being of human populations across the world. Spanning a range of foci the series aims to invite conversation and dialogue, by inviting scholars to discussing specific themes that link the study of disasters, displacement and human rights to critical research into the inequalities, structural violence as well as tenacious forms of popular critique and resistance that shapes our contemporary social landscape.

Spring 2023

Dr. Narges Bajoghli: Unsilenced: Women’s Protests in Iran

Friday April 14th, 2:00 – 4:00 PM
[view video recording below]
A lecture by Dr. Narges Bajoghli, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, co-director of the school’s Rethinking Iran Initiative, and author of Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic.
The streets of Iran have been filled with chants of “Women! Life! Freedom!” as the nation experiences a vast social uprising against its political leadership led by women and girls.
Sparked by the September 16th killing of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” for failing to comply with Islamic dress codes, the movement has at its heart an insistence that there is no such thing as political freedom without bodily autonomy. It has spread throughout Iran—prompting a government crackdown that has killed hundreds—and given rise to new visions for political futures both in Iran and globally.
Dr. Narges Bajoghli, an award-winning political anthropologist, writer, and professor whose past research on Iran has given her unprecedented access to those in power as well as to the social movements struggling against the state, shares her insights into what these uprisings mean for Iran and the rest of the world.
Dr. Bajoghli discusses the women and girls at the forefront of this movement,  their refusal to comply with laws and systems that oppress them, and the prospects of these struggles to bring about substantive change despite government efforts to squelch dissent.
Dr. Narges Bajoghli is a political anthropologist, media anthropologist, and documentary filmmaker, whose research lies at the intersections of media, power, and resistance in Iran and the United States.


Fall 2022

Dr. Dominique Somda: Women, race, identity and memory in contemporary African societies

November 18th, 12:00 PM EST (6:00 PM SAST)

[View video recording below]

Dr. Somda’s research focuses on the complex legacies of slavery and its memorialization in Madagascar, Benin, and South Africa, especially in the ways in which the latter relates to common assumptions about race and identity, driving the politics of essentialization and ethnicization in contemporary African societies. Dr. Somda also studies the representational politics around the depiction of women’s agency, slavery and colonialism in film, most notably in recent films like The Woman King, and Black Panther. Her ongoing multi-sited ethnographic work continues to shed light on the everyday lives of African women, as they navigate and contend with challenges and possibilities presented by social, economic and political crises and struggles in the present era.

Dr. Dominique Somda is a Research Fellow with the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre, where she was a member of the Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, Dr. Somda conducted research and taught at various institutions in Europe, North America, and Africa, including Fondation des Maisons des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris, London School of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, and Reed College. Her work focuses on how inequality − or conversely egalitarianism − emerges through everyday practices, and engages the anthropology of slavery, democracy, Christianity, as well as feminist and postcolonial studies.

Spring 2022

Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee: Birangonas (War heroines) of the Bangladesh War and Graphic Ethnography: Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence during Conflict

In December 1971, in an internationally unprecedented move till date, the Bangladeshi government publicly referred to the women raped by the Pakistani army and their Bengali and non-Bengali collaborators during the Bangladesh war of 1971, as birangonas (war heroines). There exists a public memory of wartime rape since 1971 till today through the innumerable literary and visual representations of the birangona as well as testimonies. This lecture examines the processes through which birangonas have been historicised, the testimonial processes through which narratives of sexual violence is recorded and the limited lens of silence, voice, shame, honour and stigma, through which sexual violence is commonly understood. By calling into question the figuration of the Birangona, the lecture will reflect on the role of graphic ethnography in renarrativising the Bangladesh War of 1971.

Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee is a Professor of Political Anthropology in Durham University and Co-Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies. Based on her book The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (2015 Duke University Press), in 2019 she co-authored a graphic novel and animation film Birangona and ethical testimonies of sexual violence during conflict and received the 2019 Praxis Award from the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists. In 2014 she was awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman (for overseas Indians) at the House of Lords (October 2014) for her social anthropological contribution on gendered violence during wars. She has published extensively on anthropology of violence, ethics and aesthetics including editing and contributing to journal special issues on ‘The Aesthetics of Nation’ (2011), ‘The Self in South Asia,’ (2013); Aesthetics, Politics and Conflict (2015) and Recent publication is the JRAI 2022 Special Issue: On Irreconciliation (2022, JRAI). Link in India: A Conversation with filmaker Leena Manimekalai about her film Maadathy – An Unfairy Tale

The Disasters, Displacement and Human Rights (DDHR) Program in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, presented a free screening of the award-winning Tamil language film (with English subtitles) Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale, followed by a virtual conversation with its director Leena Manimekalai, hosted by Dr. Prashanth Kuganathan and Dr. Raja Swamy. The event was sponsored by the Chancellors’ Council on Diversity and Inclusion and the UTK Department of Religious Studies.

Manimekalai is an acclaimed independent filmmaker and activist from Chennai, India. Her film Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale depicts the violence in rural Tamil Nadu against a caste group that is considered not only “untouchable” but also “unseeable.” This violence continues to plague much of India today. Caste and gender are two of India’s primary victim demographics of violence, particularly of a sexual nature. While gender-based violence is global, caste-based discrimination is restricted to South Asia and its diasporas. The category of caste is unlike any other in the United States. While similar to the concept of class, it is hereditary, sanctioned by religious text, and enforced by violence. This film and discussion with its director will provide attendees with a unique perspective into a system of contemporary apartheid that is not based on skin color or physical attributes but instead on more intangible categories of human classification.

2021 Webinars

The Carceral State and Human Rights

In our inaugural offering, sociologists Dr. Michelle Brown and Dr. Zhandarka Kurti join Dr. Tamar Shirinian to discuss the implications of the carceral state and the punishment industry for the human rights of millions of people in the United States. The conversation challenges us to think of addressing social problems through models where harm rather than crime is the framework for understanding social problems.

Hacking away at democracy – India’s war on dissent

Since 2018, a growing number of popular and respected social workers, human rights activists, scholars, poets, lawyers, artistes, and dissenters have been incarcerated in India under the dubious claim that they are in cahoots with the Maoist movement, in what has come to be widely known as the ‘Bhima Koregaon’ case. Key to this claim were data purported to have been “discovered” by investigators and presented as “evidence.” In the last few months, as some of these targeted individuals marked two years or more under incarceration, a digital forensics company in the U.S. proved conclusively that the evidence in question on the hard drive of one of the accused was indeed implanted remotely using spyware by a malicious agent, unbeknownst to the computer user, human rights activist Rona Wilson, one of the accused.

Political scientist Dr. Aparna Sundar (University of Toronto), anthropologist Dr. Balmurli Natrajan (William Paterson University), and computer scientist Dr. Jedidiah Crandall (Arizona State University), offer their insights into what these developments may mean for the future of democracy and dissent in today’s India.

Grief: A Discussion on Theory and Practice 

May 4, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm 

How does grief fit into our everyday worlds – especially in times when violence, disease, death, and dying are on the increase? What is grief? How do we deal with grief? What are the possibilities of“moving on” and how do those who work with grief-stricken persons and families provide help? Join us for this webinar with Dr. Patricia Bamwine and Dr. Laura Wheat, both from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who will discuss their theory and practice.

The Life Politics of Death 

May 11, 6 pm – 7:30 pm


This webinar, featuring Dr. Asli Zengin (Rutgers University), Dr. Ather Zia (University of Colorado, Boulder), and Dr. Frances Hasso (Duke University) will examine the roles of death and death-making in everyday life as well as the implications this has on the political. In worlds where violence (always political) has such far reaching effects on everyday life, how do we imagine the life politics of death? Join us for a rigorous and engaging discussion!