When Professor Hannah Garry was recently awarded a Fulbright grant to study enforcement of international refugee law at the University of Oslo Law in Norway, it marked a return to her roots studying and advocating for refugee rights.
“It feels like coming full circle,” says Garry, director of the USC International Human Rights Clinic. “Working with refugees in Africa was a life-changing experience that led me to law school, which led me seek accountability through practice of international criminal law. (Refugee rights) has been a guiding principle throughout my life. When I founded the clinic at USC, I made sure representing refugees was a significant part of our docket. This Fulbright is rooted in all that.”
The grant, bestowed by the Board of the Fulbright Foundation in Norway and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, funds Garry’s research for one semester, from January to June 2022, with the University of Oslo Law’s PluriCourts-Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order. Garry’s Fulbright research is part of a five-year plan to publish two to three papers on international refugee law, culminating with a book proposal and an advocacy project within the IHRC. Garry also hopes to develop networks on the USC campus with scholars in ethnic studies and immigrant issues.
Garry is USC Gould’s first Fulbright research scholar among tenured faculty in the history of the program, which started in 1946 and is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Garry decided to apply for the Fulbright grant two years ago, as global refugee issues escalated and the lack of binding mechanisms to assist and place people fleeing violence and persecution became glaringly obvious with each year, especially in well-off nations.
“In the midst of the world’s worst refugee crisis, there were flagrant violations of refugee law by some of the richest, wealthiest counties in the Global North, pushing people back to places where they could be persecuted, or killed, denying people the ability to seek asylum, separating families at the southern border,” she says. “They took violations to a new level. These powerful countries were getting away with it because there was no one to hold them to account. I was so outraged and appalled. We have to imagine something better.”
The Fulbright application requires a proposal, bibliography, work plan, and an institution willing to host the prospective scholar. When Garry reached out to the University of Oslo Law given their expertise in the study of international courts and tribunals, they were enthusiastic, but then the pandemic hit, putting travel on hold and giving Garry more time to assemble the required documents by the September 2020 deadline.
Garry’s academic background includes graduate work in international refugee law at Oxford University in addition to sociological research she conducted in East Africa on enforcement of refugee rights. It was there that she witnessed first-hand the violation of treaties and realized the problem of the lack of binding mechanisms. The IHRC advocacy project she envisions could take the form of lobbying nations for a proposed mechanism and drafting an international instrument for its implementation, perhaps through a UN body such as the General Assembly, she says.
The Fulbright grant also includes an intercountry lecturing program. Garry may return to Oxford University and speak at other European universities in hopes of enlisting them in her research project.
Among the larger USC faculty, she is the second to be invited to Norway through a Fulbright grant. “I’m thrilled and honored to take part in the program, and also excited for the potential this has to raise the profile of USC and the Gould School of Law abroad,” she says.
BY Leslie Ridgeway