Research Projects involving the Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research

Members of CRUCiBLE have been involved in numerous applied human rights projects, providing research and consultancy services to, amongst others, Amnesty International, The Scottish Human Rights Commission, and The Equality and Human Rights Commission, in the case of the latter to provide an evidence-based framework of indicators for assessing the UKs compliance with international human rights norms. Professor Jeremie Gilbert has served as a legal advisor to many international governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of indigenous rights, Dr Gregory Kent has been an advisor to the Kurdish Regional Government, and Professor Aisha K. Gill is frequently called upon as an expert consultant in the area of ‘honour’ killings.


Here are some of the areas we’ve been focusing on recently, which inform our academic research, our enterprise and consultancy activities, and our teaching.

The Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act, passed in 1998, has become something of a political football in recent years, with Conservative Party pledges to scrap the Act and replace it with some kind of British bill of rights. What is at stake in this political debate in many senses reflects the sociological concern that is at the heart of Roehampton’s approach to human rights, and it has been discussed in depth in class and in seminars facilitated by CRUCiBLE. However, it is not merely of academic concern to the Centre. In December 2013 CRUCiBLE co-convened a major event at the Houses of Parliament in central London in conjunction with the British Institute of Human Rights on the importance of the Human Rights Act. Meanwhile, Dr Katie Boyle has been working with the Scottish Human Rights Commission to develop more robust structures for human rights protection, and has presented these proposals to the Scottish parliament. Dr Boyle has also led on an ESRC-funded project “Human Rights in Transition”, which assesses the challenges facing human rights protection in the current political climate.

Migration and Citizenship

Like the Human Rights Act, the issue of migration (and in particular immigration) has become a major concern among political parties in the UK. Roehampton’s reputation for work in the area of migration studies is already well-established. Under the directorship of Professor John Eade, the Centre for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Migration was responsible for a number of pioneering projects in this field prior to its merger with CRUCiBLE. Current staff now approach issues of migration from the perspective of a human rights approach. Important examples of this include the work of Dr Michal Garapich which focuses on migrants’ political participation, identity politics and transnationalism. Most recently he has done significant research on homeless migrants and their adaptation strategies and resistance to structural conditions of the global city. His ethnographies of homelessness was recently adopted to shape teaching curriculum, where under his supervision a group of undergraduate students conducted a participant observation study in one of homeless day centres in East London. Taking a human right perspective, this research had a direct impact on shaping the centre’s policies in dealing with some of its clients. Meanwhile, Dr Caroline Oliver has been involved in a major project funded by the EU Urban Innovative Actions programme to evaluate an inclusive approach to the integration of asylum seekers in Utrecht.

Human Rights in the Western Balkans

Roehampton is proud to have forged close relations with a number of universities in the Western Balkans and to be working with them on human rights-related projects. One such project is the European Union-funded Tempus project, HEART, which is a collaboration led by Roehampton and incorporating three universities in Albania, one in Kosovo, three in Serbia, two in Bosnia, two in Montenegro, plus one each in Sweden, Ireland and Germany. The purpose of this project is to help develop programmes and modules and strategies for promoting human rights education in the region. Other collaborations in this region include an EU funded project to develop public policy training programmes for professionals in the Western Balkans, and we are currently planning a project on peacebuilding in Mitrovica, which brings together academics and activists from Kosovo, Britain and Northern Ireland. Indeed, Roehampton’s links with the region are long-standing: Dr Greg Kent has published widely on the wars in the Balkans as part of his broader research interest in the fields of genocide and post-conflict reconstruction.

Genocide, Conflict and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

To much of the wider world, the primary significance of the Western Balkans in respect of human rights still derives from the atrocities committed during the conflicts of the early 1990s and the subsequent strategies for reconstruction and reconciliation. At Roehampton, our interest in genocide and post-conflict reconstruction clearly overlaps with our work in south-east Europe, and Dr Kent’s work illustrates this, but it goes wider and deeper. Professor Martin Shaw is without a doubt the most renowned sociologist of genocide writing today, and we are proud to call him a colleague. For decades he has produced agenda-setting work in this area. In addition to his work on the Balkan war, Dr Kent has conducted research on the Syria crisis, and more broadly developed a typology of humanitarian crises. He also supervised an MA field-trip to Tunisia to explore the revolutionary changes there. Dr Michele Lamb has conducted research on a divided society very ‘close to home’: Northern Ireland. Also, Dr Jen Melvin has received considerable acclaim for her work on post-conflict reconstruction in Rwanda.

‘Honour Killings’ and Gender-Based Violence

One key member of the team is Professor Aisha K. Gill, who is an internationally recognised expert in the field of violence against women in black and minority ethnic communities. Her research explores the intersecting roots of violence against South Asian women in Britain, and provides clear guidance for development of policy and practice which more effectively meets the specific needs of South Asian victims of gender-based violence. Her research into forced marriage underpinned a major government strategy to address this issue in England and Wales from June 2007 onwards. Her publications have also impacted upon policy and policing responses to ‘honour’-based violence in the UK and Iraqi Kurdistan, and have helped improve the treatment of domestic violence victims in BME communities in the UK. She has, in addition, developed modules based on her research, including Gender Violence and Human Rights, which aims to address the topic of violence against women from a human rights perspective and also invites students to draw on the literature on women’s activism and resistance and consider how this relates to national and international human rights solutions to end all forms of violence against women. This is a clear example of our commitment to sharing our important research with our students.

The Sociology of Human Rights

Both the CRUCiBLE Centre and the MA programme suite are housed within the Department of Social Sciences, and this is what is most relevant and distinctive about the Roehampton approach to teaching and researching in this area. We do not prioritise – as might some – legal aspects of human rights, but rather treat human rights law as a necessary and essential set of rules which articulate social and ethical concerns within an authoritative framework. For over a hundred years the discipline of sociology has had surprisingly little to say about human rights, but this is changing, and the sociology of human rights is one of the fastest-growing specialisms within the discipline. Roehampton is proud to be at the forefront of this quiet revolution – indeed, we first offered an undergraduate module in the ‘Sociology and Anthropology of Human Rights’ in the late 1990s, the first UK university to do so, and the module remains popular today. We also offer a more theoretically advanced module in the ‘Sociology of Human Rights’ to our MA students. Dr Michele Lamb is one of the founders and co-conveners of the Sociology of Rights study group within the British Sociological Association, and has with her co-conveners been responsible for some important publications in this area, while Dr Darren O’Byrne’s work, first articulated in his influential textbook in 2003 and further clarified in his more recent journal articles and books on the subject, is now recognised as providing one of the most important conceptual frameworks within which to study human rights sociologically, and has even been referenced in core textbooks used on the Sociology AQA A2 syllabus.

The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Many of our members, both internal and external to Roehampton, are interested in the issue of indigenous rights. Professor Jeremie Gilbert, from the Roehampton Law School, has worked with several indigenous communities across the globe and served as a legal consultant to many international governmental and non-governmental organizations in this field. External members and associates of the CRUCiBLE Centre include some of the most influential academics working in this area, including Dr Damien Short of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Professor Colin Samson of the University of Essex.

Human Rights Education

The CRUCiBLE Centre was founded as a centre for the promotion of human rights education, and continues to be involved in projects in this area, not only in the Western Balkans through our Tempus partnership, but in the UK as well. Professor Bryony Hoskins recently wrote a report on human rights education for the Council of Europe.

Some of Our Recent Projects 

Utrecht Refugee Launchpad

HEART Project - Promoting Human Rights Education in the Balkans

Work with us!

CRUCiBLE is interested in collaborating and working with others in the advancement of human rights research, advocacy and education.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact the Centre's director Dr Darren O'Byrne, 020 8392 3706.