Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights

What is CCHR?

Which cultural factors are shaping citizenship in Europe today? Utrecht University’s research focus area Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights (CCHR) brings together first-rate scholars from the Humanities, Law and Governance, and the Social Sciences who have a common concern with identifying these factors. Detailed information on CCHR can be found here (pdf).

Interaction of law and culture

Citizenship is established in a public arena where law and culture interact. It offers a forum where diverging values encounter each other, and where culture influences the way human rights are constituted both locally and globally. Who belongs? Who is protected by the law? Whose voice counts? These issues are subject to renegotiation and redefinition using both cultural and legal resources.

Inclusive and resilient societies

The CCHR researchers at Utrecht University jointly aim to enlarge our insight into the convergence, but also the tensions between the cultural and the legal foundations of citizenship. This is vital to the understanding of inclusive and resilient societies. Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights (CCHR) relates closely to Utrecht University’s strategic theme Institutions. CCHR is a continuation of the previous research focus areas Cultures & Identities and Conflicts & Human Rights.

Qualitative research

CCHR has a distinctive emphasis on qualitative methods and an interpretational approach to the social and cultural world. We approach citizenship as an essentially contested, gendered and raced concept. Individuals are not primarily seen as behaving according to structures, formal organisations and patterned regulations. Instead, they are understood as actors who create meaning through agency, contestation, and materialisation. Such actor-based and artefact-based analyses enable the development of historical and cross-cultural comparisons of ideas, practices and objects.

Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights develops interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of three research lines: Mediation, Sovereignty, and Contestation.

How have media, past and present, generated patterns of identification, of inclusion and exclusion? How do they produce legitimacy as well as critical reflection? What cultural and media literacies are needed to participate fully in public life? How are the cultural differences arising from migration negotiated in a highly mediated public sphere? What has been the role of the arts in generating and contesting shared narratives?
How are the borders between the rights of individuals, states, and supranational bodies defined and when do they shift? Do new forms of governance generate new notions and practices of citizenship? Why has a gap emerged between Europe as an institutional project and the willingness of citizens to identify with it? How have cultural habits informed the discourse and exercise of human rights, especially of vulnerable people?
Through what cultural and legal practices are dissent and claim-making performed? Do the arts have a role to play in channelling contestation? Which cultural factors are involved when (legal) contestation turns into (violent) conflict, and how do human rights fuel and/or channel such contestations? When does collective memory and cultural identity become a divisive issue in the public sphere, and why?