Call for Papers: Special Issue on Activist Scholarship in Human Rights

The International Journal of Human Rights invites submissions for its special issue on activist scholarship in human rights.

About the Journal 
The International Journal of Human Rights covers an exceptionally broad spectrum of human rights issues: human rights and the law, race, religion, gender, children, class, refugees and immigration. In addition to these general areas, the journal publishes articles and reports on the human rights aspects of: genocide, torture, capital punishment and the laws of war and war crimes. To encourage debate, the editors publish Forum pieces and discussion papers from authoritative writers in the field. They also welcome comments, reflections, thematic essays and review articles and critical surveys of the literature.

Call for papers

Following the annual conference of the Human Rights Researchers’ Network (HRRN), Activist Scholarship in Human Rights: New Challenges held on 28th of June 2017, we would like to invite you to submit papers for the special issue on activist scholarship in human rights.

The HRRN, affiliated with the International Journal of Human Rights and hosted by the Human Rights Consortium, is a unique platform to promote and facilitate interdisciplinary human rights research, including exchange between the academic and practice spheres. The HRRN annual conference held on 28th June 2017 brought together activist scholars to reflect on their experiences as activist scholars and intersections of research in academia and outside in the light of contemporary human rights issues. We would like to take the conversation further through a special issue that engages critically with the issues raised during the conference on the epistemological, methodological and ethical dilemmas and challenges of activist scholarship.

Activist scholarship can be broadly defined as politically engaged scholarship which aims at furthering social justice. It is constituted by a ‘shared commitment to basic principles of social justice that is attentive to inequalities of race, gender, class and sexuality and aligned with struggles to confront and eliminate them’ (Hale, 2008). Offering a new form of knowledge production, activist scholarship attempts to bridge the divide between theory and practice and researcher and the researched subject. This is reflected in its diverse methodological approaches which emphasize direct engagement with the research participants at each phase of the research from research design to data collection and dissemination. In that sense, activist scholarship opens up new spaces for research, engagement and understanding and radically questions what is deemed valid or legitimate scholarship emphasizing the significance of knowledge produced by communities and social movements.

With the rise of threats and attacks against academics and free thinking across the world, activist scholars researching human rights face additional risks and challenges ranging from arrests, prosecutions, travel restrictions, loss of position and physical injury. Such worrying developments in academia in recent years have brought the issue of activist scholarship to the forefront, questioning the distinction between academics and activists.

Activist scholarship emphasizes that academia is not the only and the main place for knowledge production. Yet, knowledge produced in contemporary and historical social, political and environmental struggles is rarely acknowledged in academia and are not seen to be in equal terms with academic knowledge (Choudry, 2015). As Chatterton et al (2010) observe, academics rarely fuse together their intellectual or pedagogical work with their politics, and even fewer directly engage with social movements. Activist scholars in human rights often face pressure from their peers or universities challenging their epistemological, ethical and methodological frameworks. Their scholarship is criticized for being value-laden, subjective, and politicized and the validity of their research is questioned. Activist-scholars often find themselves caught between the expectations and pressures of academia and the codes of academic writing and the activist world. Commercialisation of the universities, and increasingly market-led criteria in assessing the impact of research and performance of academics pose further challenges to activist scholarship.

On the other hand, both universities and social movements are also spaces of contestation in terms of the activism of their members as well as in terms of the knowledge produced. Neither of them are exempt from power relations, conflicts and contradictions. Certain tendencies in activist scholarship might similarly reproduce gender, race and class inequalities and reinforce hierarchies of power. Engaging in research for social justice and with grassroots organisations or social movements raises further ethical questions and responsibilities for the activist scholar.

This special issue aims to provide evidence and critical intersectional analysis about specific issues related to epistemological, ethical and methodological challenges in activist scholarship in human rights.  We are seeking empirical research articles, case studies, and conceptual articles covering (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • Defining the contours of activist scholarship
  • The Activist-Scholar and collaboration with NGOs and social movements
  • The Activist-Scholar and contributions to policy and legislative reform
  • Dangers and pitfalls of activist scholarship
  • Methods for conducting activist research
  • Ethical tools and dilemmas for the Activist-Scholar
  • The Activist Scholar and key contemporary issues
  • Security and protection strategies for the Activist-Scholar
  • Decolonising activist scholarship – challenges from critical race and gender studies
  • Using activist-scholarship in education

Articles may present new research, critical theory, or best practice and should highlight practical lessons learned from experience in different settings or countries.

Submission Instructions

If you are interested in submitting articles for the special issue, please send a 300 word abstract with a title and biography to by 4th October 2017. This is for planning purposes and there will not be a selection at this stage. 

Articles should be submitted online at the International Journal of Human Rights ScholarOne Manuscripts site.

Articles for the special issue should be no more than 8,000 words including references, endnotes and footnotes and should conform to IJHR’s style and referencing guidelines

Authors should indicate that the manuscript is for this special issue by selecting this from the dropdown list on Scholar One Manuscripts. 

Other instructions for authors’ can be found under the ‘Authors and submissions’ here.


Article submissions must be received by 26th January 2018 via the online submission system.

For further information

Please see the journal homepage: or contact the editors of the special issue at

Editors of the special issue:

Dr Damien Short
Director, Human Rights Consortium
Reader in Human Rights 
School of Advanced Study, University of London 

Dr Corinne Lennox
Associate Director, Human Rights Consortium
Senior Lecturer in Human Rights 
School of Advanced Study, University of London  

Yesim Yaprak Yildiz
Human Rights Consortium Academic Support Officer
PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Cambridge