The Davies Forum

Each semester a different group of selected students called Davies Scholars participates in the interdisciplinary Davies Seminar under the direction of that semester's Davies Professor.

Fall 2019

Decolonizing International Human Rights

Taught by Sadia Saeed, Sociology

The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 ushered in an age of human rights activism by states, non-governmental organizations, grassroots social movements and individuals. The result has been spectacular. An impressive array of rules governing issues as diverse as the rights of indigenous peoples, warfare, and global economic justice (to name a few) has altered both state policies and how states are evaluated. Yet, the elucidation of this trend continues to be mired in controversy. Where, when, how and why did human rights originate? Are human rights universal and eternal or are they an expression of a particular culture and time? Do human rights reflect international consensus or are they reflective of power inequalities among states?

Taking cues from critical and postcolonial theory, an emerging scholarship is revisiting these questions in a bid to decolonize international human rights. The aim is to analyze how histories of capitalism, colonialism, and racism have intersected with Enlightenment thought to produce a mixed legacy. This mixed legacy, which is the main subject of the present seminar, reflects that human rights discourses have both aided imperial interventions and provided a language for emancipation. This Davies seminar will examine this aspect of international human rights from a global, historical, and sociological perspective.

Spring 2019

Silicon Valley Uncovered

Taught by Tamara Kneese, Media Studies

Once known for its vast plum and apricot orchards, the stretch of land comprising the Santa Clara Valley is now home to major corporations like Intel, Google, Facebook, and Apple. Silicon Valley is a hub of innovation, so-called disruption, and a booming tech economy. It is also a place of extreme wealth inequality. San Jose was the birthplace of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Movement. Today, as Google plans to build a “village” in downtown San Jose, the many janitors, cafeteria staff, security officers, and other contract workers who power tech campuses are also fighting for recognition and living wages in one of the most expensive regions of the US.

Going beyond stereotypes of Soylent and scooters, we will uncover both historical and contemporary cultures in Silicon Valley. In this Davies Forum, we will critically approach the imaginaries associated with Silicon Valley as a place and an idea, especially looking at the structural inequalities that allow the tech industry to flourish. How do Silicon Valley narratives impact the San Francisco Bay Area and the broader world? What new forms of collectivity and organizing, as well as oppression, are emerging in this changing landscape?