Research

The SJSU HRI facilitates and supports groundbreaking scholarship that continues to shape the broader field of Human Rights. Beyond traditional publications, research is often conducted in partnership with students and community organizations to create, improve, and inform policy solutions to pressing social problems. It provides answers and options. It harnesses the incredible work of students and faculty to create, improve, and inform policy solutions. The SJSU HRI is a sound, proven investment, reflecting a deliberate and remarkably successful design.


Current Projects

An intersectional approach to understanding the correlates of depression in college students: Discrimination, social status, and identity

Miranda Worthen, SJSU Associate Professor in Public Health
Justin Menchaca, BS
Michelle Laine, MBA

This study, written by Dr. Worthen and two students, took an intersectional approach to understand the depression, social status, and discrimination in college students. It started with a question about how experiences of first-generation Latinx college students differ from the experiences of other college students and then went deeper looking at how experiences of discrimination influence mental health outcomes.


COVID-19 Inequities Study

COVID Team Meeting Photo
The COVID-19 Inequities Study addresses the critical issue of the impacts of COVID-19 and disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic among young adults in California. The research builds on a course-based undergraduate research study conducted in fall 2020. The research team, consisting of five undergraduate students, one graduate student, and two faculty members, is analyzing the data and disseminating the results regarding mental health impacts of the pandemic, occupational hazards, sources that people trust to deliver accurate information about vaccination, and willingness to obtain a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. 

This work serves a dual purpose in the effort to reduce inequities in health. First and foremost, the data from the present study can immediately be impactful to policy-makers and service delivery organizations to help them understand and address health disparities. Second, through providing research opportunities to undergraduate students at SJSU, we have an opportunity to inspire historically underrepresented students to pursue post-graduate research and improve the diversity of the fields of public health and medicine leading to better outcomes for diverse populations in the long run and making progress towards addressing structural inequalities.

See the expansive blog put together by the COVID-19 Inequities Study Team

Cannabis Record Clearance and Equity Programs in California

San Jose Cannabis Equity Working GroupInstitute faculty and Human Rights Minor Program students--Students Against Mass Incarceration [SAMI]--brought together a coalition of stakeholders, legal and community organizations, and policy makers to push for universal, top-down cannabis record clearance in Santa Clara County. Two years later this coalition will join the DA and Public Defender’s office to clear all eligible cannabis records in the County in March of 2020. The HRI is publishing a report on the system being developed by the DA’s office that may also be used across California to clear cannabis and potentially several other eligible criminal records.

New Books Underway!

  • HRI Director W. Armaline is now writing the third book in his series with Dr's. Davita Glasberg and Bandana Purkayastha (University of Connecticut) on the critical sociology of human rights and the necessity of human rights praxis.
  • HRI Core Team member J. Curry is releasing a two-volume book project (U. of Arizona Press, dropping 2020) with co-editor Dr. Devon Peña (U. of Washington) on Land and Water Traditions in Southern Colorado looking at Mexican farmers who have been able to retain their land and water rights through sustainable farming practices.

Sample Scholarly Publications

Cross-Cultural Lessons on Anger and Social Connectedness.

Miranda Worthen, SJSU Associate Professor in Public Health

I first started thinking about anger and its role in the experiences of people who have fought in wars when I was in Sierra Leone, about a year after the cease-fire ended the civil war. I was working as a research assistant on a study with girls who had been child soldiers and who had given birth to children during the war. We were living in a community in the west, on the border with Guinea. At first, we met only a few young women. We listened to their stories—about the war, and about what life had been like for them and their children since the end of hostilities.


The transformative and emancipatory potential of participatory evaluation: reflections from a participatory action research study with war-affected young mothers

Miranda Worthen, SJSU Associate Professor in Public Health

The Participatory Action Research (PAR) study with Young Mothers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and northern Uganda which took place from 2006 to 2009 aimed to understand what ‘reintegration’ meant to young mothers formerly associated with armed groups. It also implemented social action initiatives designed by study participants to promote their wellbeing and achieve reintegration. We evaluated the study using multiple participatory evaluation methods, situating evaluation as part of the cycle of research and action. This approach facilitated young mothers’ participation in developing the criteria by which the study and its reintegration outcomes would be judged. We describe each method and what we uniquely learned from using a participatory evaluation approach. We discuss how this approach is well-suited for complex studies, can enhance data quality, increases capacity of all involved in the evaluation and supports the critical reflexivity necessary for participatory studies to succeed.


CHANGE! Scott Myers-LiptonCHANGE! A Student Guide to Social Action

Scott Myers Lipton, SJSU Professor, Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

This is the first practical social change text devoted to students working in an academic environment. While there are many books about community organizing and social change, there are no college texts focusing on how to provide real-world experience with academic content taking into consideration the flow of the academic term. CHANGE! A Student Guide to Social Action is written specifically for faculty and staff to use with college students with the goal of helping students bring about the change they believe is necessary to make our community a better place to live.


Children Affected by Armed Conflict: Theory, Method, Practice

Myriam Denov and Bree Akesson

Societal turbulence, state collapse, religious and ethnic conflict, poverty, hunger, and social exclusion all underlie children's involvement in armed conflict. Drawing from empirical studies in eleven conflict-ridden countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Colombia, Uganda, Palestine, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and South Sudan, Children Affected by Armed Conflict crosses cultures and contexts to capture a range of perspectives on the realities of armed conflict and its aftermath for children.


Transformative spaces in the social reintegration of former child soldier young mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Northern Uganda.

Angela Veale, Miranda Worthen and Susan McKay

A significant but insufficiently considered category of female former child soldiers is those that become mothers as a result of rape or through relationships with “bush husbands”. This article reflects on learning from a participatory action research (PAR) study which aimed to facilitate the social reintegration of formerly associated young mothers and other war-affected vulnerable young mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda.


De Jure vs. De Facto Rights: A Response to “Human Rights: What the United States Might Learn from the Rest of the World and, Yes, from American Sociology”

William T. Armaline, Davita Silfen Glasberg and Bandana Purkayastha

Blau's (2016) argument for a Constitutional Project implies that changes in the U.S. Constitution would ensure fundamental adherence to human rights standards. We disagree with the assumption that legal and institutional instruments are guarantors of human rights practice. Instead, we see rights practices as the function of power struggles that include but go far beyond formal law. Instead, we emphasize an important distinction between de jure human rights instruments and de facto human rights practice, arguing that the focus on de jure instruments and legal discourse misses the significant effect of social movements and direct action that secure rights practice. De jure instruments may codify human rights and enumerate them as important, but they do not carry the authority of enforcement. We argue that the pursuit of human rights must be reframed to include both de jure and de facto human rights terrains. While charitable provisions from generous states can temporarily relieve specific human rights abuses, universal human rights practice requires establishing the fundamental political primacy of the people through the processes of the human rights enterprise.


Ending exterme inequalityEnding Extreme Inequality: An Economic Bill of Rights to Eliminate Poverty

Scott Myers Lipton, SJSU Professor, Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

Poverty and inequality are at record levels. Today, forty-seven million Americans live in poverty, while the median is in decline. The top 20 percent now controls 89 percent of all wealth. These conditions have renewed demands for a new economic Bill of Rights, an idea proposed by F. D. Roosevelt, Truman and Martin Luther King, Jr. The new Economic Bill of Rights has a coherent plan and proclaims that all Americans have the right to a job, a living wage, a decent home, adequate medical care, good education, and adequate protection from economic fears of unemployment, sickness and old age. 


The Human Rights EnterpriseThe Human Rights Enterprise: Political Sociology, State Power, and Social Movements

William T. Armaline, Davita S. Glasberg and Bandana Purkayastha

Why do powerful states like the U.S., U.K., China, and Russia repeatedly fail to meet their international legal obligations as defined by human rights instruments? How does global capitalism affect states’ ability to implement human rights, particularly in the context of global recession, state austerity, perpetual war, and environmental crisis? How are political and civil rights undermined as part of moves to impose security and surveillance regimes?


‘The biggest gang in Oakland’: re-thinking police legitimacy

William T. Armaline, Claudio G. Vera Sanchez and Mark Correia

Literature defining ‘police legitimacy’ lacks qualitative research on those populations most often targeted by law enforcement agencies, including people of color in urban areas. This same literature defines police legitimacy as something unquestionable and automatic. Exploration of this concept is limited to strategies to increase public ‘trust’ in police, and public compliance to their authority. We address these limitations in the available scholarship through an analysis of interviews with a diverse sample of Oakland (CA) residents on their experiences with the Oakland Police Department (OPD). Their narratives are presented in the historical context of controversy, budget problems, federal investigations, and racialized violence that help to define the relationship between OPD and Oakland communities. Those interviewed, universally observed OPD’s failure to address the most common crime problems in the city, while others, particularly people of color, found them to be a personal or public threat to safety. Their narratives fly in the face of the manifest functions of municipal police forces, are fully supported by the contemporary empirical history of the OPD, and suggest the illegitimate authority – including the monopoly on the use of force – of organizations like OPD in a democratic society.


Human Rights in our own BackyardHuman Rights in Our Own Backyard: Injustice and Resistance in the United States

William T. Armaline, Davita Silfen Glasberg, and Bandana Purkayastha

Human Rights in Our Own Backyard examines the state of human rights and responses to human rights issues, drawing on sociological literature and perspectives to interrogate assumptions of American exceptionalism. How do people in the U.S. address human rights issues? What strategies have they adopted, and how successful have these strategies been? Essays are organized around key conventions of human rights, focusing on the relationships between human rights and justice, the state and the individual, civil rights and human rights, and group rights versus individual rights. The contributors are united by a common conception of the human rights enterprise as a process involving not only state-defined and implemented rights but also human rights from below as promoted by activists.

Awarded the 2013 Hirabayashi Book Award by the Human Rights Section of the American Sociological Association. 


Sample Human Rights Reports and Other Applied Publications

Analysis of Wethersfield, CT policing data 2013-2018

Kirk, Zach and W.T. Armaline (2016)

Commissioned report for the Community Party (Hartford, CT) by SJSU Human Rights Institute and SV DeBug.


“San Francisco’s Drug Arrests Drop 90% through 2016; Disproportionate Arrests of African Americans Persist.”

Armaline, W.T. and M. Males (2017)

Public report in collaboration with the (CA) Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice [CJCJ] requested by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, and San Francisco Office of Cannabis.

Seen as a critical research component part of the broader City and County of San Francisco Cannabis Equity Report [pdf]:


Shadow Report Submission to the Committee on the Convention Against Torture on List of Issues Prior to Reporting [LOIPR] for the U.S. 6th Periodic Report: Jail Practices and Conditions in the U.S. (San José, CA).

Armaline, W.T. and E. Kinney (2016)

Shadow Report Submission to the Committee. Submitted to the Committee on the CAT C/O the US Human Rights Network on June 27, 2016.


Human Rights Framework and Analysis: The Inmate Family and Friends Forum (SCC Jail inmate, family, and friends hearing) [pdf]

Armaline, W.T. and E. Kinney (2016)

Report by the Justice Review Committee, SCC Human Rights Commission to the SCC BOS.


Human Rights Framework and Report on use of OC Spray in SCC Juvenile Detention Center [pdf]

Armaline, W.T. and E. Kinney (2015)

Report commissioned by the SCC Human Rights Commission, delivered to the SCC BOS.*

*Notably, this report had the immediate impact of halting the dangerous use of chemical weapons on youth in County juvenile detention (on 04/20/15, decision by SCC juvenile probation dept. and other related agencies).