Faculty Research Grant: Investigating Human Rights Issue of Statelessness

| November 7, 2014


For Lindsey Kingston, assistant professor and director of Webster’s Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, a Faculty Research Grant means an opportunity to continue the work she began in 2004: investigating how human rights organizations choose the issues for which they advocate and why. Her particular interest was in the issue of statelessness and why it has been virtually ignored for so long.

“When you read all the explanations for why human rights organizations choose the issues they do, and you look at the case study of statelessness, it seems to fit all the criteria,” she said. “And yet, it has generally not been something that the international community looks at.”

Statelessness, which Kingston says affects as many as 15 million people worldwide, is when a person does not have citizenship in any country. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Unlike the United States, many countries do not recognize a person as a citizen if he or she is born in that country. Civil wars and dissolution of countries can leave a person without a home country. Revoking citizenship can also be used by majority powers in a country to punish or discriminate against minority populations.

Without an established government entity to recognize and protect their human rights, people are left in a very vulnerable position. “If you don’t have citizenship, you often can’t go to school, you can’t work legally, you can’t travel freely, and you can even be forcibly deported to a country you’ve never been to,” said Kingston. So she began interviewing decision makers at large human rights organizations to find out why they choose what issues they work on, such as human trafficking, child soldiers, or refugees, and why they    pay little attention to other equally important issues, such as statelessness. Research on this subject became the basis for her PhD dissertation, which she completed in 2010  Kingston calls her current study “Issue Emergence and Human Rights Advocacy.”

Applications to Human Rights Research

Now, with the help of her Faculty Research Grant, Kingston is in Phase II of her project. “Statelessness has achieved partial emergence in the past few years, and I am really curious to see how that happened,” she said, adding that she is hoping to keep the forward momentum going so that the issue becomes more mainstream.

Kingston recently attended the First Global Forum on Statelessness in The Hague, The Netherlands, sponsored by the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  She was able to present her research on issue emergence at the conference, which was attended by 300 attendees from 70 countries. She was also able to conduct a number of interviews for her research.

Once she has compiled and analyzed the data, Kingston hopes to publish her findings in an academic journal. She also hopes to do an article for a practitioner journal, “to make sure that the people working in the field are getting this information,” she said.

Faculty Research Grant Applications Deadline Extended to Nov. 17

The deadline for the 2015-16 Faculty Research Grant has been extended to Mon, Nov. 17. For full details, faculty members are encouraged to review the Faculty Research Grant Announcement [PDF].


Category: Faculty

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