Zoe Trodd is a Professor in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, founding co-director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights, and co-director of the university's research priority area in Rights and Justice. Her focus is the history, literature and visual culture of protest movements, especially antislavery.
Read an interview with Zoe about the Rights and Justice research priority area:
What is the story behind this Research Priority Area?
This is the world’s largest group of Rights and Justice scholars: 700 staff members and 300 postgraduates, across 20 research centres spanning all our faculties but especially Social Sciences and Arts. When I first started mapping this group, I realised that this is a key part of our University’s identity, we are not just the UK’s global university, not just its most sustainable campus, but one of its most civically engaged, socially conscious universities. These 20 centres, 700 staff members, were already engaged in multiple collaborations — there were numerous intersections around key research questions—and so the RPA brings everyone together in a focused, multi-disciplinary way, to become a truly world-leading rights and justice group that collaborates with major stakeholders.
Why is this research important?
Rights and justice is particularly important for us, as a tri-campus University. We have a unique opportunity to harness the expertise of multiple countries. From visiting our campus in Malaysia for example, and from the research centre based at UNMC (University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus) that is part of our RPA, I know there are government leaders in Malaysia looking for collaboration on human rights and Islam. Having a tri-campus focus means we have the chance to have a rights and justice impact on communities in China and Malaysia — to have a truly global rights and justice lens.
What’s the key research being undertaken?
In our first year we have focused on four major themes: slavery, migration, children, and security. Our research centres cluster around those themes, and we are running pilot programmes in those areas. For example, Nottingham is unique in having a dedicated Geospatial Institute that covers the full spectrum of earth observation, global navigation satellite systems and citizen science capabilities. Until now, it has focused on earth observation, but is now beginning human observation. We will start by identifying sites of slavery and forced labour. I am also excited by a project to develop the best, most effective treatment response for people coming out of situations of extreme human rights violation. Although other organisations have developed recommendations for treating victims of torture, we lack an accepted therapeutic response for survivors of slavery, trafficking, child or forced marriage, forced displacement, political imprisonment, gender-based violence, or forced military service. Again we will start with a pilot around the treatment responses for contemporary slavery. But aside from those four main themes, we have also used LGBT History Month this past February to map the campus expertise in LGBT rights, and identified a large number of scholars with expertise in this area. This and our RPA’s events and initiatives for LGBT History Month have led to an exciting new pilot with the Nottinghamshire Police around combatting hate crime. We did same thing for Women’s History Month in March, and continue mapping different areas of research in rights and justice, so that we can update our core themes over time.
What do you want to communicate to your external stakeholders about your work?
We offer the world’s largest cluster of rights and justice scholars, and that cluster is very multi-disciplinary. You don’t find that anywhere else: a large-scale research and knowledge exchange partnership across multiple disciplines, not just two sociologists, one law scholar or a lone historian, but a team of experts addressing global challenges in the area of rights and justice from a range of different angles and disciplines.
Why is it excellent?
We are very good at this University at the co-production of knowledge — at conceiving our knowledge in partnership with our stakeholders. We know how to design research and knowledge exchange in a way that both benefits the research and engages the people who will use it. It feels like a very cutting-edge, nimble and responsive campus.
Why is this area of research a priority at The University of Nottingham?
I think that this University has had rights and justice at its core for a long time, though perhaps not always explicitly. Not all British campuses fly the rainbow flag like we do on campus for Nottinghamshire Pride. Not all campuses celebrate Black History Month like we do each October, with dozens of free events that serve thousands of audience members. Not all campuses have the degree of student volunteering that we do. Not all campuses have long-established and successful research centres focused on Race and Rights; Social and Global Justice; Human Rights Law; Identities, Citizenship, Equalities and Migration; Health and Justice; or Corporate Social Responsibility—just a few of the research centres that make up our RPA. The campus has always seemed very socially conscious to me, though without necessarily claiming that explicitly as part of its main identity. So part of why this RPA works, and why it is so huge in terms of scale, is that it has been revolving around the topic all along! We are a campus that embeds itself in society, cares about our impact, seeks the coproduction of knowledge with our external partners, and engages locally and globally: we have always been the UK’s Rights and Justice campus, this RPA just maps and supports that explicitly!