Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Andrea Wright

Committee Members

Danielle Moretti-Langholtz

Leslie Cochrane


Human rights commissions are bodies appointed by local governments across the United States who are tasked with reducing discrimination in their communities. While they share the same goals, they vary widely in terms of labels, strategies, and capacities. An anthropological lens allows for a deeper analysis into these institutions’ purposes and ways in which their structure influences the practice of an idea like human rights. I use research methods that include ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, and sociolinguistic interviews with commission-affiliated participants to examine how local human rights commissions apply international conceptions of human rights to the local level. I anchor this research in my experiences with the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights and Human Rights Commission. I argue that differing interpretations of human rights create difficulties for putting them into practice, structure can limit the capability of human rights commissions to live up to their communities’ expectations, and burnout in a unique form of activism can further exacerbate these complications. Through this analysis, I seek to offer context and potential solutions to the issues of impact that some United States local human rights bodies experience. This research has future implications on how we could, and should, address human rights on a local level.

Available for download on Saturday, May 03, 2025