My core program of research investigates how activist engagements with human rights deepen the political significance of human rights today. This program of research is immersed in trying to untangle and make sense of human rights — as metaphor, as pedagogy, and as a framework.

One aspect to this research program has examined how women activists from the Américas have expanded global level discussions about the conceptualization of racism and antiracism through an intersectionality approach. Intersectionality is a theoretical concept that signifies how interconnected forms of oppression (such as discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, and class) exist at the experiential and structural levels. I argue in Power Interrupted that an expanded discursive approach to racism at the United Nations (UN) has led to new opportunities for antiracist feminist advocates who do not have to limit themselves to UN venues exclusively focused on women. This research bridges the academic concept of intersectionality with its activist application to underscore how even the language of human rights has to better integrate an antiracist component.

Prof. Falcón testifying at the UN in Geneva, 2008. Photo: Aleyamma Mathew

Museo Itinerante exhibit, August 2015, Lima, Perú

The second aspect of my research program aims to understand how citizen-subjects are building what I am conceptualizing as “a human rights culture” in Perú. In August 2003, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that an estimated 70,000 people (overwhelmingly from indigenous communities as 75% were Native speakers of Quechua or other indigenous language) had been killed and disappeared during the armed internal conflict of 1980-2000. Thus, this research investigates the shift from a context of rampant and widespread human rights violations to human rights realizations in the post-conflict/transitional justice period. I am particularly interested in understanding how citizens form counterpublics – oppositional spaces to the dominant culture shaped by racial, patriarchal, and class-based hierarchies– to reclaim and reinterpret human rights for the purposes of progressive social and cultural transformation.