International Race and Rights Lab

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An initiative of professor Zoltán Búzás, the International Race and Rights Lab has a unique focus, approaching the right to racial equality from an international perspective. While many research labs emphasize international human rights and omit race, or center on domestic racial problems and overlook the international realm, IRRL stands out as bridging the international and the racial. Our hope is for the lab to become a leading venue for the international study of race and rights, building a community of students and scholars who share such an interest.



Zoltan Irrl

Zoltán Búzás is an Associate Professor of Global Affairs at the Keough School, and a Klau Center Faculty Fellow. He holds a PhD in political science from the Ohio State University. His expertise includes international relations, human rights, race and international politics, and  international law and norms. Búzás’s book, Evading International Norms: Race and Rights in the Shadow of Legality, examines how states violate human rights norms in the shadow of technical legality—a process Búzás calls norm evasion.

Nourhan Irrl

Nourhan Fahmy is an Egyptian researcher and journalist who focuses on legal and judicial issues, currently a master of global affairs student at the Keough School. As a Bassem Sabry Democracy Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC, she conducted research on Egyptian judicial affairs. Previously, Nourhan worked for Egypt-based news outlets including Daily News Egypt, Aswat Masriya, and Mada Masr. She also worked as a researcher and archivist for the Law and Society Research Unit at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Nourhan holds a bachelor’s degree (with honors) from AUC in political science and economics and a law degree from Cairo University. 

Thomas Irrl

Thomas Musgrave is a political science and peace studies student interested in criminal defense law, data science, and public policy. As the Youth Chief Justice of Illinois Youth and Government and a delegate of the United States Senate Youth Program, Musgrave learned about the legal and political processes, culminating in several moot court and extemporaneous speaking awards. He plans to continue exploring opportunities to further his academic development through research and political advocacy.



Race, Rights, and Great Power Politics

This project examines criticisms of the US over civil rights, and more recently Black Lives Matter, coming from China, the Soviet Union, and later Russia. The lab will will read and code a large sample of articles in the most prominent state-controlled Chinese newspapers published in English, and assemble a case study on the Soviet Union’s (and Russia’s) criticisms of the US on civil rights. This paper will offer a theoretical account that elevates the role of race in great power politics and contributes to our empirical knowledge through an analysis of Chinese and Soviet/Russian criticism of the US civil rights record.


Race and Reputation in International Politics

This project examines whether concerns about appearing racist matter in international politics and foreign policy. It hypothesizes that concerns about appearing racist shape US foreign policy by (1) leading to rhetorical reputation management that aims to burnish the country’s racial reputation as anti-racist or at least non-racist; and (2) by providing incentives to refrain from behaviors seen as racist by the relevant audience. The lab will conduct in-depth archival research of US nuclear policy in Asia during the Cold War to assess the extent to which these hypotheses are empirically supported.


Balanced or Biased? French Courts and Roma Evictions

Many evictions of Roma from French shantytowns involve conflicts between the human rights of the Roma on the one hand and the property rights or collective interests of the majority population. How do French courts solve these conflicts of rights and interests? Do the rulings reflect balanced compromises or the biases of judges? What is the impact of evictions on the Roma? The project aims to address these questions based on interviews with legal experts and Roma dwellers of shantytown, as well as analyses of French court rulings on Roma. We hope these unique data will generate important theoretical and policy-relevant insights.