ISA Human Rights Joint Conference 2014

Kadir Has Üniversitesi, the venue of my latest foray.
Kadir Has Üniversitesi, the venue of our latest adventure.

There is no rest for the wicked indeed. Hot off the heels of the Erasmus Mundus General Assembly 2014, we come to the ISA HR 2014, this year in Istanbul, Turkey. Yet another jam-packed two day information overload, but this time I had the boy with me and five days in Istanbul— a city neither of us has been in, a remarkable feat in itself.

This was actually my first ‘ISA’ conference, having just decided to launch myself into the political science academic world last year. While I know this isn’t the ISA conference to go to (that was in Canada, earlier this year) I felt it a good introduction to the people I would later hopefully meet in the big one next year. The HR chapter of the ISA is rather small, perhaps 200 people in total at the conference, but the smaller number was great as everyone was either an expert or on the way to becoming an expert, and it wasn’t as crazy as I feared it would be. The opening keynote on Monday was by Judge Riza Türmen, a Former Turkish Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, which was apt considering the volatile political situation in Turkey at the time. The other keynote speakers on the other two days were Edward Mortmer, author of the book “Freedom in Diversity: How Best to Combine Human Rights and Peaceful Coexistence in 21st-Century Liberal Democracies” (something I poached from the registration table— conference freebies!) and Ruti Teitel, Professor of Comparative Law at the New York Law School.

The keynotes themselves present the composition of the conference, which was a mix of everybody. Academics, of course, practitioners, government officials, and diplomats. My panel, “Norm Dissemination and Local Actors” on Tuesday, 3:30-5pm (the best time!) had Paul Danyi (Purdue University) who tackled democratization from a philosophical standpoint, Michal Krotoszynski (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań) who looked at it from a rights perspective, Yvette Selim (University of New South Wales) who examined the case study of post-conflict Nepal, Inken Heldt (University of Hannover, Research Group Civic Education) who looked at human rights education in high schools, and myself, who had the postcolonial perspective. Diverse bunch, and based on my experience at that conference we had the most active audience participation of the two days of panel presentations.

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Istanbul itself was a breath of fresh, honey-scented Bosphorus-y air. We had a teeny tiny apartment overlooking the Golden Horn, right by Kadir Has Üniversitesi so it was extremely easy for me to get to the conference but rather hard to get to the tourist area of Sultanahmet. That said, growing up in Manila traffic trained me well for jaywalking across highways and we had no problems. The tram was quite efficient, and we got to see all the sights and all the cats, and we ate Turkish food daily— both by choice and not, as Turkish food is absolutely delicious (that pilav!) plus there were no other food options available in our area. I suppose if we had stayed at a hotel it would have been quite different, but as it is I enjoyed my Islim Kebabı and my Karniyarik immensely.

The only problem in my personal opinion was the extreme gender segregation and gender violence in the country. While walking alone to and from the conference venue, a mere five-minute walk, men would whistle, cars would honk at me and flash their overheads, and some even stopped along the extremely busy highway to ask for my hand in marriage and other things in Turkish that I don’t really want to think about. It was terrifying not only because they were the kind of heavy-set men I know I couldn’t take in a fight, but also because of the huge possibility of a traffic accident happening right as I was standing. You don’t really expect to have a parked car in the middle of a four lane highway with a lot of blind corners!

But I survived the Turkish men and my boy survived the Turkish jaywalking and we both survived the summer heat and feel in love with Istanbul. I more than him perhaps, he didn’t much appreciate the mosque that was right outside our window. Call to prayers are particularly loud at six in the morning.

Overall the trip was a resounding success, I got to present a chapter of my dissertation, got to glean so much information off of the other participants, got to spend a week in Istanbul with by darling boy, and perhaps most importantly, got to escape the hell that is Rome. Hallelujah.

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