University Of San Diego Kroc School Assistant Professor Austin Choi-fitzpatrick Appointed To Prestigious University Of Nottingham Research T

SAN DIEGO – Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, a prominent Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies has been recruited to a unique research team at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. A leading expert on modern slavery perpetrators, Choi-Fitzpatrick will continue conducting cutting-edge anti-slavery research with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab.

Choi-Fitzpatrick will join the Rights Lab as Associate Professor of Human Rights and Social Movements in the School of Sociology and Social Policy while also maintaining his faculty position at the Kroc School as Assistant Professor of Political Sociology.

Home to leading contemporary slavery experts, the University of Nottingham Rights Lab has built the world’s first large-scale research platform to end slavery. Their work centers on leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals to end slavery by 2030. With governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations, they are designing new research-led antislavery interventions to help achieve this ambitious goal.

“Austin’s unique research looks at the role of contemporary slaveholders that are challenged by contemporary anti-slavery movements – an area which is rarely addressed by scholars of slavery or social movements,” said Kroc School Dean Patricia Marquez, PhD. “The Kroc School is very proud of Austin’s accomplishments and grateful for the unique contributions he makes to our students and their education. This appointment will allow him to access a plethora of support for his research, and eventually will contribute to the eradication of slavery as we know it,” added Marquez. 

“As social movement scholars, we write histories and assessments of the movements themselves, and we rarely have access to perpetrators or the powerful people who movements challenge,” says Austin. “As scholars of slavery and freedom, we tend to focus on victims and survivors, on laws and legislation, but to end slavery for good we need to explain what drives slaveholders. Just think about the American Civil Rights Movement. Everybody knows about Martin Luther King, Jr, but we know almost nothing about the segregationists he was up against.”

By collaborating with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, Choi-Fitzpatrick will share the rare data he has collected during his extensive research on perpetrators and survivors. The decision to share his data was not taken lightly. In fact, it was a difficult decision for Choi-Fitzpatrick. In the end, he agreed to do so because he believes sharing data will help like-minded researchers achieve their mutual goal of understanding and ending slavery. “My work was funded by the National Science Foundation,” Austin says, “which means the public made the research possible. Universities are a public good, and I hope my work is useful to policymakers and activists working to make the world a better place.”

Prior to academia, Austin helped coordinate national outreach at the advocacy group Free the Slaves. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame, where he was Assistant Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Movements and Social Change. He was previously founding faculty at Central European University’s School of Public Policy.

In the book What Slaveholders Think: How Contemporary Perpetrators Rationalize What They Do, Austin draws on interviews with contemporary slaveholders to explore the way they feel about emancipatory movements. In his new book, Protest Tech: How Social Movements Use Disruptive Technology, he explores the ways movements use tools and technologies to bring about social change. With a research team based in both California and Nottingham he has started a new book project that compares stories of survivors and perpetrators, asking what we can learn about how human rights violations pass into collective memory.

As a member of the Rights Lab, he will be continuing his work on contemporary slavery and exploring the use of new technologies to tackle intractable human rights violations, the role of photography in anti-slavery movements, and other issues.

On joining the Rights Lab, Austin said: “In tackling slavery Nottingham has demonstrated a serious commitment to answering some of the really big questions of our age - why do we oppress one another? And how can we build a world with freedom for all? I’m honored to be a part of such an ambitious and important initiative.”

The Rights Lab is a University Beacon of Excellence that brings together over 100 scholars to deliver research that helps to end global slavery by 2030.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Pamela Gray Payton
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