Human Rights, Society and Justice Research Group

The Human Rights, Society and Justice research group brings together a dynamic and diverse body of researchers across the intersecting disciplines of politics, criminology, sociology and law. The group focuses on NGO practice; development, environmental justice and rights; restorative justice; labour and employment rights; political participation, activism and protest; neo-liberalism; gender and women's rights.

The group also engages in critical criminological research in diverse, yet connected, areas: postcolonial and decolonial perspectives on criminal justice; gender, policing and the politics of protection; the role of law and society in constructing gender and sexual identities, and victimization; and species justice and green criminology.

The group has obtained funding from the Independent Social Research Foundation, the Political Studies Association, Animal Free Research UK, Programa Raices, the Leverhulme.

Together with the Centre for Human Rights, Solidarity and Practice, the group runs (jointly with CResCID and from 2021 in partnership with the Department of Global Studies and the Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, US) an annual Human Rights Festival open to the wider public. Staff members of this group collaborate closely with Kingston Race and Equalities Council (KREC).

The group is home to several PhD and postdoctoral researchers who are carrying out research within the field.

Current and recent funded projects

Covid-19 and democracy

This is a Kingston-funded project co-led by Dr Peter Finn (Kingston, Department of Politics). The project explores the intersection between political and policy responses to Covid-19 across eight democracies (the UK, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, and the US) and looks at Covid-19's repercussions on race, gender and socio-economic inequality.

Read more about the studies of the project and how politics played a key role in the impact of Covid-19.

Decolonising political thought: a reconsideration of political thinkers

  • Funded by the Political Studies Association and the Independent Social Research Foundation.
  • Coordinators: Dr Simon Choat (Kingston) and Dr Manjeet Ramgotra; SOAS, University of London

The project aims to rethink political theory and the history of political thought. Political thought has been dominated by a canon of thinkers who are overwhelmingly white, Euro-American and male. The whiteness and maleness of political thought is problematic because it fails to reflect: contemporary cultural and ethnic diversity; the historical significance of race and gender as sites of political oppression and struggle; the contributions made by women and non-white theorists; and the importance that the concepts of race, gender, and associated themes and concepts (such as the family, sex, colonialism, and slavery) have had to the theories of canonical thinkers.

The project's overarching goal is to address this by (a) bringing to light a wide range of women, non-white, and non-European thinkers whose work has often been ignored, excluded, or devalued; (b) insisting that all modern political thinkers must be read within the contexts of patriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism and the relations and structures of race, gender, and class which different theories have reflected, defended, or challenged. The point will not be to scapegoat, dismiss, or diminish the so-called ‘dead white men' who have traditionally constituted the canon of political theory: to the contrary, we believe that it is only by placing these thinkers within their proper contexts and interrogating all aspects of their thought – including their often neglected views on race and gender – that we can do justice to the sophistication and nuances of their arguments.

Scientists' attitudes on science, values and animal-free research

A pilot study involving successful winners of funding for animal alternative techniques in medical research.

  • Funded by Animal Free Research UK.
  • Coordinator: Professor Kay Peggs

This project examines the perspectives of medical scientists who have received grants to develop animal-free research. It is the first social science project to be funded by AFR UK.

Environmental access rights in Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Funded by Programa Raices.
  • Coordinator: Dr Belen Olmos Giupponi

This project has been pivotal in the drafting and signing of the Escazu Agreement – the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (adopted in March 2018 and ratified in November 2020).

"Universal Credit" and human rights

  • Funded by Kingston University
  • Coordinator: Dr Hannah Miller (with research assistance from Dave Tinham)

Examination of the human rights impact of the Universal Credit system. Pilot study on the Royal Borough of Kingston.

Marginal migrants: deportation of EU criminals and human rights in Brexit Britain (2018)

  • Coordinator: Dr Nevena Nancheva

Explores the conflict between notions of the public good and human rights in the deportation of EU criminals with family members in the UK.

Marching with donkeys. protest tactics and industrial conflict in 20th century Italy

  • Funded by the Leverhulme Trust – Research Fellowship scheme – 2018-2019.

This project looks at industrial conflict and workers' protest cultures and practices in modern Italy, from the first industrial strikes of the 1890s to the 1980s, with a special focus on the period since 1945. It explores the range of forms of protest that workers utilised, how they changed and why, their underpinning rituals, meanings, strategic and symbolic functions.

You can read more about the project here on the Leverhulme Trust's website.

The Security Society

In 2016 a research fellowship from the University of Gothenburg allowed Dr Francis Dodsworth to finish his monograph The Security Society (Palgrave, 2019).

The book provides a critical engagement with the idea of the ‘security society' which has been the focus of so much attention in criminology and the social sciences more broadly. ‘Security' has been argued to constitute a new mode of social ordering, displacing the ‘disciplinary society' that Foucault saw as characteristic of the liberal era. He saw a ‘control society' (or ‘risk society') characteristic of Neo-Liberalism, in which the deviant behaviour of particular individuals, as less important than general attempts to offset risk and reduce harm. Dodsworth argues that much of this literature is extraordinarily present-ist in orientation, denying the long history of attempts to mitigate risk, prevent harm and manage security which have always been a part of the government of order.

This book develops a ‘critical history' of security: a thematic analysis of debates about security and aspects of the security society which puts contemporary arguments and practices in dialogue with the texts and practices of the past. In doing so the book develops a cultural analysis of the meanings of security and the way these meanings have been articulated in particular practical contexts in order to understand how the promise of security has so effectively captured the imagination and channelled the effective engagement of people throughout the modern period.

From "rights-based approaches" to alternative human rights models

  • Coordinator: Dr Hannah Miller

This is a 15-year study of NGO campaign strategies and practices. It examines formal "rights-based approaches" to development and poverty eradication by contrast to alternative human rights models.

Beyond "rights-based approaches"

  • Coordinators: Dr Hannah Miller and Dr Robin Redhead (Leeds Beckett University)

This project involved a one-day conference (hosted at Kingston University) and the guest editorship of the International Journal of Human Rights (Vol. 23, No. 5) on the theme: Beyond "Rights-based approaches".

Recent events

Human Rights Festival (22–26 February 2021): Human Rights in an Age of Polarisation and Disparities

Held in partnership with the Department of Global Studies and the Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, USA. Supported by CResCID, Kingston; and Kingston's Centre for Human Rights, Solidarity & Practice.

Human Rights Festival (24–28 February 2020): Empire Legacies: Human Rights & Social Justice Perspectives

Supported by CResCID, Kingston; and Kingston's Centre for Human Rights, Solidarity & Practice.


The Nation(s) Decide(s): UK General Election Eve Panel (December 2019)

Neoliberalism and mental health

A discussion with Ruth Cain (University of Kent) (November 2019).

Brexit and mental health

A discussion with Dr Georgios Kavetsos (Queen Mary) Dr Nevena Nancheva and Dr Robin Pettitt (November 2019).

Human rights in 2019: reasons to be cheerful

With keynote speaker Andrea Coomber, Director of JUSTICE (February 2019)

Read about the event here.

Human rights after Brexit

With keynote speaker Sanchita Hosali, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights (February 2019).

Read more about the event here.

Britain and its international ethical obligations: the case of genocide

With Professor Philip Spencer (February 2019)

Read more about the event here.

Transcending capitalism: a journey to an independent economic lifestyle

With Daniel Contreras (February 2019).

Read more about the event here.

Tom Brake MP on Brexit and the rights of EU nationals in the UK

Walter Rodney: pan-Afrikanism, Marxism and the next generation

This event took place on 2 March 2019. Read about the work of Walter Rodney and the event here.

International Women's Day: Balance for Better

International Women's Day event: women and war

This event explored research that examines various historical roles that women have assumed in conflict. Read more about this "women and war" event from March 2019.

Amadiba community fights for future

Nonhle Mbuthuma, 22 October 2018.

Marikana – voices from the front line

With the Right Reverend Jo Seoka, Bishop of Pretoria, Thumeka Magwangqana from Marikana women's organisation Sikhala Sonke, and Andries Nkome, attorney. (March 2018)

Social movements, fighting racism in the UK today

With Marcia Rigg (United Families and Friends Campaign) (December 2017).

Film and talk: Britain's forgotten slave owners

Nicholas Draper (UCL) (28 November 2016)

Students, do you see yourselves reflected in the curriculum?

Consultation run in conjunction with UKS Liberation Officer (November 2016)

We, the people of Europe? In conversation with Etienne Balibar

Chaired by the Politics Department and the Student Politics Society (18 March 2016)

Beyond 'rights-based' approaches? One-day workshop on: Critical research into transformative practice

Impact and public engagement

The Human Rights, Society and Justice Group's work has been of direct relevance to users, beneficiaries and audiences in a wide range of areas.

Dr Radu Cinpoes

Dr Radu Cinpoes' research has played an instrumental role in the development of several projects, debates and events led by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Foundation aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of right-wing extremism in Romania. His work has also been used by FES Romania to develop education tools to combat radicalisation.

Dr Joanna Jamel

Dr Joanna Jamel was asked to represent the Institutes of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme Network to provide recommendations for changes in policy and legislative practice on an international scale to UN members. Since 2015 she has been a research consultant on the documentary film "One Taxi Ride" (on male rape and sexual victimisation). The film was released in 2019; it has been screened at both international and national film festivals (39 in total), won seven Jury awards over the 2019/2020 period and has resulted in a petition to the Mexican government to take male rape seriously as there are no support services currently available in Mexico for male rape survivors.

Dr Andy Higginbottom

Dr Andy Higginbottom has worked with London Mining Network, an organisation that researches London-based extractive companies and lobbies for the rights of mining-affected communities in Latin America and South Africa. Dr Higginbottom also contributes to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils.

Dr Hannah Miller

Dr Hannah Miller has worked within several leading social inclusion and rights organisations including: Regenerate.COM, Regenerate RISE; SCOPE (NHS Patient and Public Involvement Forums); and W.A.R Ethiopia. Miller also assisted War on Want in its use of the human rights frame for its strategy and external communication.

Dr Darren McStravick

Dr Darren McStravick works with a variety of secondary justice stakeholders in the criminal justice system including police officers and probation officials as well as participating offenders on reparation panels on restorative justice schemes in Ireland.

Dr Robin Pettitt

Dr Robin Pettitt has published the key findings of his research on party activism on the blogs of the Lib Dem President and The Labour Society of Campaigners.

Professor Kay Peggs

Professor Kay Peggs is part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Vegetarianism and Veganism, House of Commons. She has worked as a consultant for the BBC on eating meat, and CNN on veganism in Germany.

Dr Belen Olmos Giupponi

Dr Belen Olmos Giupponi has worked with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and the National Coffee Institute (ICAFE) in Costa Rica on GHG emissions in the agricultural sector. Her work has aided the implementation of climate change norms by simplifying the methods and process to measure CO2 emissions reductions. Her research has also been pivotal in the drafting and signing of the Escazu Agreement – that is, the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (adopted in March 2018 and ratified in November 2020).

Dr Michael Wynn

Dr Michael Wynn has advised the Maritime Coastguards Agency (MCA) on reform of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 regarding financial services for abandoned seafarers (2015–17). The UK's transposition of the Convention has been implemented. Wynn is currently advising the EU Commission on UK implementation of the Fisheries Directive. He has also advised IPSE (Association of Independent Professional Self Employed) on aspects of social security provision for the self-employed (2014–16).

Contact us

Dr Hannah Miller
Department of Criminology, Politics and Sociology