2024 SERA-LSA Grantees

Asmita Aasaavari, PhD Candidate, University of Connecticut, Department of Sociology, USA

Graying Matters, Aging Bodies: Economic and Social Rights among Seniors in Rural Connecticut, USA

The stigma associated with aging impacts rights enjoyment, especially when social institutions reinforce it through policies and structural practices. Given the gap between de jure rights and de facto enjoyment, I ask what strategies seniors employ to make sense of and claim their social and economic rights. Building on scholarship in economic and social rights, the sociology of aging, and feminist gerontology, I use the case of seniors in rural Connecticut to explore the disjuncture between rights-bearing and rights-accessing seniors. I employ in-depth interviews, photovoice, ethnography in institutional settings, and rights-based policy analysis to capture the rights granted to seniors, their subjective understanding, and ability to access these rights. These qualitative methods allow me to capture the nuances of how social location shapes elders’ ability to enjoy rights to health, decent work, and an adequate standard of living and document the complexities of the bureaucracy that structures experiences of accessing rights. 

Daniela Campos Ugaz, PhD Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Sociology, USA

Securing the Rights to Decent Work in the Knowledge Economy: Possibilities and Challenges for States under Globalization


The knowledge economy is crucial for developed countries to maintain their competitiveness and for developing nations to create decent work opportunities, rather than engaging in a race to the bottom. How can states acquire the necessary labor to build and strengthen this increasingly important knowledge economy? The dissertation focuses on the employment, immigration, and training institutions that are adapting to benefit from these growing sectors and evaluates their ability to provide decent work opportunities. This interdisciplinary comparative case study examines skilled labor migration programs in Germany and the United States and assesses Costa Rica and Ireland's experiences in attracting foreign investment and training their workforce. The data for this project includes interviews with policymakers, employers, academics, unions, and other experts. It also involves documentary research, such as parliamentary debates, official reports, and newspapers, observations of recruitment and informational events, and consultation of secondary data and literature, as well as sectoral and employment statistics from national-level surveys. The ultimate aim of the research project is to develop understanding of the challenges of securing decent work rights, specifically related to the ILO Decent Work Agenda pillars of job creation and rights at work.

Barbara Kitui, PhD Candidate, University of Pretoria, Faculty of Law, South Africa

The Land Governance Architecture and Women’s Land Rights in Uganda


This thesis examines the land governance architecture in a bid to secure women’s land rights in Uganda. It specifically scrutinises parliament, the judiciary and implementing institutions of the executive arm of government within the context of land governance. The thesis reflects on the historical and socio-legal context including precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial societal perspectives and reviews global, regional, sub-regional and domestic legislation. The study analyses Uganda’s land governance architecture including statutory and non-statutory entities. The thesis also questions the extent to which customs deliver women’s land rights in Uganda and introduces a theoretical perspective of lifting or piercing the cultural veil as an equitable remedy to address negative customs for the advancement of women’s land rights in Uganda. Finally, the thesis concludes with recommendations on how the land governance architecture, customs and legislation can be harnessed to secure women’s land rights in Uganda.

Cristian J. Padilla Romero, PhD Candidate, Yale University, Department of History, USA

‘Soñando en un Futuro Mejor’: U.S. Empire, Racial Capitalism, and Black Radicalism in Caribbean Honduras


My dissertation explores how Black Hondurans experienced and challenged the daily realities of poverty, racism, and economic marginalization in 1950s and 60s Honduras. My primary research questions ask: how did the Honduran state address, or not, the social and economic issues brought forth by Black communities, and in turn, how did Black activists organize to hold the state accountable? Using US and Honduran government documents, oral histories, and Honduran ephemera, I trace how Black activists, specifically after WWII, fought to reaffirm the social and economic rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 within Honduras. These efforts provided the precedent for future generations of Black and Indigenous leaders demanding that their rights be respected and codified by the State. These histories encourage scholars to expand and rethink our understanding of how grassroots sectors more-often-than-not fought for social and economic rights.

Almas Shaikh, DPhil Candidate, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law, UK

Promise of Equality: Imbuing Intersectionality into India’s Affirmative Action Laws on Education and Employment


This thesis aims to develop the theory and practical applicability of intersectionality in the context of affirmative action by considering one jurisdiction in which affirmative action is well established, namely the law of reservations in India. Reservation, a specific form of Indian affirmative action, is where a proportion of seats in the legislature, public employment and education are reserved for members of marginalised groups. In this thesis, I focus on education and employment as they contain a transformative potential for development. By examining the existing constitutional and other provisions for reservation, as well as current jurisprudence, in the context of intersectionality theory, I aim to illuminate the challenges raised by affirmative action for intersectionality theory and vice versa. Through this, the thesis will be able to sharpen the theoretical tools as well as begin to sketch potential legal and policy reforms for equal access to education and work.

2023 SERA-LSA Grantees

Achalie Monaliza Kumarage, PhD Candidate, The Australian National University, School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), Australia

Collective Voice without Collective Bargaining: Women Workers and Labour Regulation in Sri Lanka’s Apparel Industry and its Globalized Supply Chains 

Workers bear the heaviest toll in globalized apparel supply chains due to concentrated corporate power and systemic failures to appropriately manage risk. Women workers, forming an overwhelming majority of this workforce, are considered passive participants and contributors to ‘industrial peace.’ Transcending the conventional labor law approach to worker representation and collective bargaining, this dissertation explores how women workers exercise voice to negotiate their rights in Sri Lanka’s apparel industry and its associated global supply chain. The research is executed as a qualitative study examining three multi-level case studies, with women workers’ experience at the center. It engages with critical labor law, regulatory theory, and transnational feminist movements. Among ineffective formal bargaining mechanisms, for women workers specifically, the dissertation explores what legal and normative framings, human rights and labor standards on worker representation and voice offer them the most leverage in influencing labor regulation in the industry. Gendered understandings of rights on worker representation and voice, and how they translate in precarious conditions will offer insights to re-imagine worker representation and rights negotiation, advantageous for women workers. 

Carolina Braglia Aloise Bertazolli, SJD Candidate, Central European University, Austria

Limitations on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in the Global and Regional Human Rights Systems

Economic crises and COVID-19 have brought a wide variety of restrictions upon human rights, and (quasi)judicial bodies were called upon to decide on whether these restrictions violate human rights law. My research explores the international bodies’ criteria to accept as lawful a restriction upon ESCR. It analyzes the limitations of ESCR with attention to states’ obligations. Limitations has been theorized for the obligations to respect and protect but not for the obligation to fulfill. In addition, states must observe the progressive realization, non-retrogression, non-discrimination, and minimum core obligations. My thesis analyzes how the fulfillment of, having in mind other obligations, ESCR interacts with limitations in the adjudication process. My four jurisdictions are the UN and regional human rights systems. I chose three forms of violations that necessitate ESCR limitations: forced evictions, austerity measures, and access to health. Together, they help determine how international bodies construe limitations in ESCR adjudication.

David L. Evans, PhD Candidate, University of Connecticut, Department of History, USA 

Hunger for Rights: Establishing the Human Right to Food, 1930 – 1988 

This project explores the origins of the human right to adequate food and its development as part of the global human rights movement. It relies on the analysis of documents produced by the US government, inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental entities to examine how a diverse cast of international actors envisioned and enacted the right to food in the Twentieth Century. From the 1940s onward, food loomed large in the concerns of both the United Nations and the wealthy West for raising global standards of living. US political leaders and agro-corporations believed that the right to food could become a practical reality by means of economic deregulation and enhanced food production. UN officials and non-governmental activists contested this orthodoxy and argued that the right to food had to be achieved through global economic and social equality. By the 1970s, a new generation of non-governmental activists embraced food as a key component of improving social justice in the face of ascendant neoliberal economic policies that ignored and undermined economic, social, and cultural human rights. 

Gaurav Mukherjee, SJD Candidate, Department of Legal Studies, Central European University, Vienna, Austria 

Complex Remedies in Social Rights Litigation: A View from the Global South

Socioeconomic rights disputes pose a unique set of challenges for the judiciary. Claims arising from social rights are complex, polycentric, and involve parties who may not usually be before the court. They also implicate resource allocation, and questions persist about the judiciary’s institutional fit to decide these issues relative to the representative branches of government. How do judges get around these concerns, ensure their decisions are seen as legitimate, and avoid executive backlash? In an age of democratic backsliding, how can courts safeguard their institutional capital while delivering effective social rights remedies? The central way that judges get around these concerns is by using complex remedies. Complex remedies involve a range of stakeholders beyond the litigants to respond to some of these concerns – by incorporating civil society, government authorities, and other affected parties within the judicial process. These actors help frame the legal issues, suggest remedies, and oversee implementation. Remedies of this kind disrupt our traditional understanding of litigation and are undertheorized in the comparative constitutional law literature. My work fills this gap by advancing normative constitutional theory through a study of judicial doctrine and identifies the kinds of complex remedies seen in the so-called Global South, while also setting out the factors that can and should guide judicial decision-making and civil society strategy.

Juan I. Wilson Coddou, PhD Candidate, The University of Chicago, Department of History, USA

The Many Foundations: Reform, Revolution and the Transformation of Law in Mexico, 1876–1940 

In 1917, six years after an uprising ousted dictator Porfirio Díaz and after four years of civil war, the victorious revolutionary faction enacted a new constitution for Mexico. It included, for the first time in world history, constitutional provisions granting collective property to rural communities and social rights for urban workers. Yet, despite its radical novelty, we know little about how Mexicans made sense of these provisions in the years immediately following the writing of the new constitution: how they interpreted them, what types of claims they filed, and how these claims evolved and transformed Mexicans’ relation to the state and to each other, their understanding of citizenship. Using a rich set of legal cases from before and after the revolution, I will describe how these new rights changed the framing of politics in Mexico. The research reveals the potential and limits of legal instruments to affect social change. 

Thalia Viveros Uehara, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, USA

Addressing Health Crises through Courts? Climate Litigation in Latin America, the Right to Health and Vulnerable Populations 

As the climate crisis disproportionately imperils the health of Latin America’s populations experiencing poverty and social exclusion, the need to realize the most vulnerable’s right to health becomes ever more pressing. While the region’s new constitutionalism has advanced the protection of this right, such a transformative approach is just beginning to intersect with climate change law as rights-based climate litigation proliferates. This dissertation applies a transdisciplinary multi-methods research approach to analyze the body of climate cases filed through 2022 in Latin American jurisdictions, studying the urgent coupling of two pressing issues—the severity of climate change and the region’s pervasive poverty and social exclusion—a confluence that manifests as “health crises.” Particularly, it answers the following question: How do these health crises emerge within, and how are they tackled by courts through, domestic climate litigation in Latin America? In doing so, it explores the legal and socio-political factors influencing how health concerns of vulnerable populations are raised and addressed in climate litigation, with the goal of identifying how the profiles, motives, and resources of claimants and judges influence their approach to protecting these population groups’ right to health. This knowledge illuminates the strategic and interpretative potential for litigants and courts to better use climate litigation in alignment with climate justice, thus offering a pathway to mitigate health crises emerging in contexts characterized by deep socioeconomic inequalities. 

2022 SERA Grantees

Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School, USA 

Infiltrating the State: Social Movements and the Transformative Politics of Economic and Social Rights

My dissertation explores the role that Economic and Social Rights (ESR) mobilization has in processes of institutional transformation. Most specifically, it theorizes the role of ESR strategies after a social movement infiltrates the State. This dynamic of infiltration will complement theories that conceive ESRs as tools to “judicialize”, “deliberate” or “vernacularize” a movement’s claims. Drawing from Bourdieu’s fields theory, I argue that ESR function as a particular form of juridical capital that enables social actors to go in and out the State to assume two particular subject-positions: “governing activists” (activists with bureaucratic roles) and “sympathetic bureaucrats” (officials willing to break institutional inertias). My dissertation conceptualizes the interactions between these two subject-positions as driving factors within processes of institutional transformation. The project is grounded on sixteen months of fieldwork in Mexico, during which I followed indigenous activists that assumed bureaucratic roles in “Community Councils”, new local government bodies created through mobilization.

Emily Kathryn Linnemeier, PhD Candidate, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict, George Mason University, USA

Building Egalitarian and Equitable Schools through Youth Participatory Action Research

This dissertation research consists of using and documenting the process of youth participatory action research (YPAR) to address the social right of education, specifically, as it relates to equity, in a United States high school setting. I’m working with a coresearcher team of students and educators from a socioeconomically, racially and home language diverse suburban school to analyze and address a co-determined issue around equity and the school culture. This research looks at how both the outcomes and the process of YPAR may lead to strengthening of the social right of educational equity on a specific high school campus. Therefore, not only is the research focused on ways to exercise the social right of equitable education, the study also utilizes a methodology that allows people who should receive that right to engage in a collaborative process to determine what it looks like.

Madri Hall-Faul, PhD Candidate, School of Social Work, University of Connecticut, USA

The Role of the Devolved Policy Implementation in Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment: The Case of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Connecticut

The devolved model of social welfare policy in the United States leads to inequality in benefit access and adequacy, as exemplified by the implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This inequality between states has been studied extensively, but has not been analyzed in depth as a violation of social and economic rights of families in poverty. My dissertation will examine how this inequality is created in one state through a case study of TANF in Connecticut. Using a framework of participation, nondiscrimination, equality, human dignity, transparency, accountability, and adequacy, I will evaluate TANF and its impact on social and economic rights in Connecticut. I will conduct interviews with decision-makers and advocates, and review budgets and public documents. This dissertation will contribute a human rights-based analysis of TANF to social welfare policy literature and provides a novel focus on public administration decision-making, which is limited in social work literature.