Anna Bruce

affiliated with the university

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Law

Research

I work as a researcher and senior lecturer in international human rights law at the Faculty of law at Lund University. The common core of all my research is the analysis of how law responds to human diversity, primarily disability but increasingly citizenship, child status and gender. Here I explore the potential of international human rights law and international migration law vis-à-vis national law (particularly anti-discrimination legislation) and policy. An equally central aspect of my research is the exploration and application of scholarship from disciplines other than law (mainly in the areas of sociology, medicine and philosophy) to inform the understanding, evaluation and implementation of international as well as national law. Such scholarship includes disability studies, gender studies, childhood studies, migration studies, intersectionality studies and post-colonial studies. I engage with these to understand and evaluate how human rights law approaches diversity, to identify the relationship between general features of law and diversity and to explore the role of law per se in achieving diversity sensitive social justice. In terms of areas of human rights norms, I have focused in particular on the right to health, rights connected to pride, social recognition and portrayal of diversity through law, the right to education, the right to privacy, freedom from violence and abuse and procedural rights.

 

My research in the area of disability, which resulted in finalizing my doctoral thesis in 2014, has consisted in exploring the negotiations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the resulting instrument through the lens of disability theory as well as through the particular ideological heritage of international human rights law. Here I lean heavily on my participation in the negotiations on the CRPD on behalf of the Swedish Disability Ombudsman. This research traced and highlighted central choices made in the formulation of the CRPD in terms of what entitlements where deemed to merit the protection of the law, and for whom. It also evaluated the consequences of these choices in terms of gaps of legal protection for persons with disability in general, as well as for particular segments of persons with disabilities. The most central outcome of the research is the double edged consequences of the reign of the Social Model of Disability in the negotiation and the implementation of the CRPD, and (albeit to a lesser extent) in the legal instrument itself. The upside of the influence of this direction of disability theory is a strong protection of autonomy, a steadfast questioning of environmental barriers to participation, a central role for persons with disabilities in the implementation of the CRPD and the demand for social recognition of the value and contribution of persons with disabilities. The downside chiefly concerns a diminished potential for realising central aspects of the right to health (the standing to demand health measures as opposed to the standing to refuse health measure) for the entire constituency of the CRPD, and particularly for sections of person with disabilities who are also children, women, older persons, persons with high health requirements and persons in the Global South.

 

Parts of the research conducted was largely left out of the dissertation and used in other text, some published and some yet to be finalised, such as the development of the concepts of equality and non-discrimination in human rights law prior to the CRPD (at preset only published in the form of a textbook) as well as the novel contributions of the CRPD and its negotiations in the area of international monitoring of human rights conventions.

 

My present research is being finalized in the form of a report for the European Refugee Council, as part of a larger project run under L/UMIN (The Lund/Uppsala Migration Law Network) which I currently co-direct with Gregor Noll. This research takes the human rights of persons with disabilities into the area of migration, in particular the procedural aspects of migration. It is situated in the intersection between disability theory, international human rights law and the CRPD on the one side, and refugee law and migration studies on the other side. The nexus is procedural rights and the Refugee Status Determination process (RSD).

 

On a theoretical level this research is largely an exercise in evaluating an established system (the RSD process) with its own logic (the acceptance of the disadvantage of non-citizens) through the lens of innovative legal changes in international human rights law (the CRPD) with an entirely different logic (to change each system, including procedural ones, until they do not disadvantage its users). On a practical level the central aim is to excavate what entitlements the CRPD yields to asylum seekers, particularly as regards procedural accommodations, but also to investigate disability as a ground for asylum or other forms of international protection. The CRPD with its strong and innovative standards has a real potential to send ripples through all areas of rights protection for persons with disabilities, including the law on refugee status and other forms of international protection. A major point explored and illustrated by this research is that measures to address the requirements of asylum-seeking persons with psychosocial disabilities such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which are not rare but common as well as highly predictable, must be proactive, systemic and made generally available rather than reactive and tied to the requirements of a particular individual. Disability according to the CRPD is a structural problem which calls for structural solutions, a logic largely foreign to the RSD process.

 

In this research I focus in particular on the situations of asylum-seeking children with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. A crucial aspect here is to ascertain the obligations of implementing states to acknowledge the increased exposure to rights violations of this group posed at the intersections between different instruments of international law concerning children, persons with disabilities and asylum-seekers. In order to adequately address this exposure, these three dimensions must be addressed as they are in reality: not as separate entities but intrinsically embodied in each asylum-seeking child with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities.  In order to understand and identify key dimensions of this exposure I explore intersectionality theory, disability studies, migration studies and childhood studies. The legal consequences of acknowledging this intersection between child status, disability and non-citizenship implies bridging divides between refugee law and human rights law, as well as between different legal instruments within human rights law. In the face of this, this research explores to what extent the application of international law in good faith requires states to amalgamate the rights and obligations in different instruments (particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the CRPD and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees).

 

In my future research I hope to continue exploring the meeting points between the disciplines, areas of law and legal instruments identified above.

 

A particular area for further exploration is the interaction between human rights law and refugee law in establishing the rights of asylum-seekers. In my current research I explore in detail what rights the CRPD brings to the RSD process, and the wide range of asylum-seekers who are entitled to these rights in view of the prevalence of psycho-social disability. In my coming research I want to trace on a theoretical level the dimensions through which human rights law is constantly expanding its protection while refugee law lags behind. Two central features I will explore here is the development of the understanding of equality and non-discrimination and taking violations of economic and social rights as serious as violation of civil and political rights. Centring this research on the CRPD is apt as the CRPD presents the latest as well as the strongest developments of these two dimensions in human rights law, fuelled as it is by the logic of inclusion and the questioning of dichotomies, legal as well as others.

 

I am also looking to conduct more empirical research on the legal changes the 2015/2016 asylum crises has brought with it, in particular focusing on procedural rights in the RSD process. The overarching theoretical framework will be on law as simultaneously a catalyst for and a break pad against change at times of intense developments.

 

Finally, I am planning to explore further the conclusions of my doctoral theses on the discrepancy in the approach (norms, interpretation and implementation) to the right to health in the CRPD compared to other UN human rights conventions. My ambition here is to explore to what extent it is possible legally to consolidate these approaches as well as what exactly the ideological ‘knots’ are that need untying in order to find common ground (to the extent that this is legally possible as well as otherwise desirable). Here, I wish to explore further the different global implications of possible common ground using post-colonial theory, in particular the concept of emergent disability.

 

Teaching

My teaching mirrors closely my research and includes areas such as international human rights law, international refugee law, disability law, equality and non-discrimination law, law and gender, children and law, philosophy of law, feminist legal theory and disability theory. I enjoy teaching in legal, interdisciplinary as well as other academic settings (mainly at Lund University and Malmö University) as well as practitioners (mainly through my work with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law), in Sweden as well as abroad. As a guest lecturer I have been engaged with a number of academic institutions in Sweden (Stockholm University, Uppsala University, Linköping University and Jönköping University) as well as abroad (mainly in China and Belarus). My current teaching here at the faculty includes directing and teaching the third obligatory course on the Master’s Programme in International Human Rights Law focusing on inequality and marginalisation and teaching international law, non-discrimination and gender in a course given by the Law Faculty to students at the Department of Gender Studies. I also supervise theses on undergraduate, masters as well as doctoral level.

 

In terms of pedagogic development, I explore, employ and teach according to the principles of Human Rights Education. Mirroring the subject matter of my research and teaching, my focus is ease of access of education in relation to diversity. Outside of my own teaching, I work with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law to explore the potential of Human Rights Education in third level education in Sweden as well as abroad, currently in Belarus.

Outreach

Cooperation with society has always been central to my work, both to improve the outcome of that work as well as sharing any result with the actors that can in fact take action based on those results. My very first research engagement initiated in 1999 at the Disability Law and Policy Centre in Galway, Ireland under the auspice of Gerard Quinn was commissioned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and included gauging and improving the awareness of disability human rights among National Human Rights Institutions and Disability NGOs. Since then I have cooperated with both state actors (such as the Disability Ombudsman, the Swedish Agency for Participation, the Children’s Ombudsman, the Migration Authority and Sida (the Swedish development agency)), Interstate actors (such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues) and actors from civil society (such as the Swedish Disability Federation and DHR (an organization for the rights of people with impaired mobility)). My engagement consists mostly of education and input into law and policy formulation. My hitherto most intense engagement is as an expert in negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities on behalf of the Swedish Disability Ombudsman 2003-2006.

 

I also cooperate with society primarily for the benefit of my own research, by conducting hearings and work-shops with participants from state authorities as well as civil society in order to reality check my agendas as well as results.

 

Through my work with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, I interact with practitioners from all over the world active in the formulation and implementation of human rights law, ranging from state officials, judges and NGO directors to prison officers.

 

My present outreach activities planned for the fall of 2016 are more locally bound and include giving public lectures at libraries on disability and human rights as part of “Forskarturnén” (Tour of Researchers), participating in two debates organized by the Swedish Disability Federation and the Swedish Agency for Participation during “MR-dagarna” (Human Rights Days) and finally continuing the ongoing advising of a steering group consisting of the Disability Ombudsman, the Swedish Agency for Participation and the Children’s Ombudsman in a government mission to raise awareness about the CRPD at all levels of government and civil society in Sweden.

Recent research outputs

Anna Bruce & Anna Nilsson, 2018 Jun 15, Svenska Dagbladet (E-SvD).

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperNewspaper article

Anna Bruce, Gregor Noll, Lisa Kerker & Eleni Karageorgiou, 2015, Lunds universitet, Juridiska fakulteten.

Research output: Other contributionMiscellaneous

Anna Bruce, 2014, Anna Bruce anna.bruce@jur.lu.se. 462 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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