The Science of Human Rights, War Crimes, and Humanitarian Emergencies
Posted: 11 Jan 2008
Sociology can be an important disciplinary bridge between the study of what demographers call forced migration and mortality and what legal sociologists and criminologists understand as war crimes. The challenge is to develop a critically informed sociological synthesis that joins our understanding of the frequently politicized health and violence dimensions of what are also diplomatically called "complex" humanitarian emergencies. The frequency of these emergencies is growing, and there is an increasing amount of data collected by governmental and nongovernmental organizations exposing large-scale violations of human rights and war crimes. Yet analyses of these data are often inadequate. Although the humanitarian emergency in Kosovo marked a high point in collaborative human rights research, the circumstances that allowed this collaboration are probably atypical. We consider how, in increasingly challenging circumstances such as the Darfur region of Sudan, population health and legal and criminological surveys can be joined to provide more comprehensive estimates of deaths resulting from violent attacks as well as from disease and starvation. The discipline of sociology, with its expertise in population-based surveys and other measurement and analytic techniques, has the capacity to bridge differences and to provide more meaningfully synthesized conclusions.
Keywords: public sociology, demography, displacement, forced migration, refugees
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