Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights (DDHR) is a research and training focus spearheaded by the cultural anthropology faculty and graduate students at UT. We also cultivate important links across the different sub-disciplines of anthropology and with faculty and students in other departments and colleges.
Dr. Gregory V. Button
Dr. Marisa O. Ensor
Dr. Bertin Louis, Jr.
Dr. Amy Z. Mundorff
Dr. Tricia Redeker Hepner
Dr. Dawnie Wolfe Steadman
Disciplines / Departments
DDHR welcomes and encourages collaboration between the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and faculty and students in other departments and colleges.
Affiliated faculty research and teaching interests include the rights dimensions of the rise of new religious media in Africa; the concept of social suffering in war-torn northern Uganda; and religion and conflict in Nigeria (Rosalind Hackett, Department of Religious Studies); international human rights law, religious freedom, and the role of non-governmental organizations (Robert Blitt, College of Law); and genetic identity, intersections between behavior, morphology and genetics, large-scale population movements and human demography (Graciela Cabana, Department of Anthropology). DDHR also looks forward to welcoming forensic anthropologist and DNA identification specialist Amy Z. Mundorff to the faculty of anthropology in January 2010.
DDHR provides a forum for scholarly research and applied anthropological work on contemporary global and local problems associated with unnatural disasters; forced migration; warfare and armed conflict; and the political, economic, and legal dimensions of these issues as conceptualized and addressed through the norms and discourses of “rights.” DDHR accommodates a wide range of interests and expertise, and builds innovative bridges between UT’s cultural anthropology program and the department’s celebrated strengths in forensics and archaeology. Faculty and students who participate in DDHR work on issues such as forced migration, internal displacement, refugees, and resettlement; genocide and ethnic cleansing; legal movements for retributive and restorative justice; conflict resolution and peace-building; the political economy of natural resource extraction and pollution; public health; and the social causes and impacts of unnatural disasters. DDHR looks forward to planning and facilitating workshops, seminars and conferences for the UT community and beyond.
Examples of specific research in DDHR include Gregory Button’s current research on the long-term effects of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, political discourse and social formation in the wake of the TVA ash spill, Hurricane Katrina victims’ human rights abuses, and an ethnographic account of the evolution of disaster policy. Button teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on disasters, environmental health, involuntary displacement, political economy, and applied anthropology.
Tricia Redeker Hepner’s research focuses on recent refugees from the northeast African country of Eritrea as they seek asylum in North America, Europe, and other regions in Africa. Working closely with Eritrean communities, international human rights organizations, and legal experts, she is analyzing how the process of seeking asylum transforms Eritrean political and legal consciousness, and how this might affect the development of transnational movements for human rights. Hepner also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in political and legal anthropology, human rights, and Africanist anthropology.
Faculty and graduate students whose primary expertise is in physical/forensic anthropology and archaeology find the concerns of DDHR relevant to their interests. For example, the research and training conducted at UT’s Forensic Anthropology Center and associated Forensic Genetics Laboratory—and techniques developed in archaeological excavation and analysis—have a central role to play in critical examinations of post-conflict or post-disaster situations such as genocides or oil spills. In this way, DDHR aims to strengthen and link together the sub-disciplines to channel the holism of anthropology into projects with important public implications both locally and internationally.
Current graduate student research in DDHR includes master’s and doctoral theses on topics such as urban and encamped refugees in Ethiopia and resettlement to the United States; the genocide in the Balkans and the use of forensic evidence at the International Criminal Court; forensic identification of disappeared migrants in borderland regions; the politics and public health dimensions of the TVA ash spill; the met and unmet needs of Hurricane Katrina evacuees; and community activism surrounding Superfund sites.
Gregory V. Button, Ph.D.
250 South & East Stadium
1425 South Stadium Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-0720
Phone: (865) 974-4408
Tricia Redeker Hepner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
222 South Stadium Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996
Phone: (865) 974-8962