Rights & Identities in the Americas:

Human Rights, Linguistic Rights, and Contemporary Challenges

The Americas are a historic crucible for the development and practice of human, civil, and linguistic rights. The region has witnessed devastating abuses, including the genocide of First Nation peoples, African Americans, and others throughout the Americas. The region and these communities have also contributed powerful new ideas about the protection of rights, including the rights of indigenous communities, languages, and migrants. North, Central, and South America are historically, culturally, legally, and socially deeply intertwined, a fundamental assumption of this Duke Immerse course.

Rights & Identities in the Americas takes an interdisciplinary, integrated look at the history of human rights in the Americas, civil rights, and indigenous rights through the lens of language and culture, and connections between the state, family, gender, and immigration.

The program examines these issues on the ground in North Carolina, where Prof. Liliana Paredes and Prof. Kirk are conducting ongoing research. Students meet with and interview indigenous immigrant families who have settled in Durham. Students will also consider how the history of violence is represented and discussed in contemporary life, including through museums and monuments. 

Incorporated into the semester program are overnight trips to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and the Siler City area in North Carolina. Time permitting, we may also take a weekend trip to Washington, DC to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Rights & Identities in the Americas draws on the expertise of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), the Duke Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library, and the Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute.


Locations: Durham & Siler City, NC; Montgomery & Selma, AL; Atlanta, GA

Term: Fall 2023

Dates: Travel Schedule TBD

Application Deadline: April 1, 2023

Academic Themes: Cultural Anthropology, History, Romance Studies, Human Rights, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Public Policy

Eligibility: Students must have taken WRITING 101; non-Duke students matriculated at Duke are eligible for this program

Program Fee

Participants are required to pay a program fee of $1,500 in addition to regular Duke tuition, fees, and room and board. This fee covers all program costs, including airfare. Financial aid packages may be used to cover these costs; if you have any question or concern as to whether financial aid will be able to cover this for you, please reach out to the Karsh Financial Support Office directly (finaid@duke.edu); they are familiar with Duke Immerse and can answer your questions. 


Students accepted into Rights & Identities in the Americas will receive the permission numbers needed to enroll in this set of Duke Immerse courses. Enrolled students must take the four courses outlined below. Overloading is acceptable with the permission of all instructors; no underload is permitted. One Duke semester course credit is equivalent to four semester hours.

Course numbers: CULANTH 245S-01, LATAMER 246S-01, HISTORY 242S-01, RIGHTS 245S-01
Curriculum codes: 
Course Description: This course introduces students to the history of human rights in the Americas, with a focus on specific regions. We begin with the Conquest and cover the emergence of independent nation-states; the role of imposed economic policies, including neoliberalism; indigenous protest movements and their relationships to corporate interests; the civil rights movement; and the influence of the United States on human rights, government formation, immigration, and the drug trade. Instructor consent required.
Instructor: Robin Kirk

Course numbers: ROMST 389S, LINGUIST 389S-01
Curriculum codes: CCI, EI, SS
Course Description: This course brings together topics of language and human rights, focusing on situations of linguistic disparities in the Americas. We will explore questions of language contact, bilingualism, and endangered languages from the perspective of social injustices and human rights. We will also examine how language aids in the construct of social context and institutions and how it mirrors and sustains social realities, reflects on situations of oppression and how they are associated with sociolinguistic attitudes and behaviors. It also engages with the question of how in the US language rights can be seen as a legacy of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. All these explorations explicitly connect linguistic human rights with cultural and minority rights, from the right of maintaining one’s identity to sustaining practices of language justice. Instructor consent required.
Instructor: Liliana Paredes

Course numbers: ROMST 290S-01
Tentative curriculum codes: CCI, EI, ALP, CZ
Course Description: This course explores the question of rights and identities in the Americas through critical engagement with foundational texts associated with civil rights movements in the Americas, including Latin American and Latinx human rights struggles. This course prioritizes readings that support the experiential component of the cluster. Readings will include texts by Bartolomé de las Casas, José María Arguedas, José Mariátegui, Juan Acevedo, Jill Anderson, Gloria Anzaldúa and Maggie Loredo as well as Audre Lorde, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin. Films, songs, poetry, and graphic art will also constitute core texts. Instructor consent required.
Instructor: Melissa Simmermeyer

Course numbers: HISTORY 390S-01, CULANTH 290S-01, PUBPOL 290S-01, ROMST 390S-01
Curriculum codes: EI, R, SS, W
Course Description: Students will develop individual and team projects using primary and secondary sources collected throughout the semester, with a focus on human rights, history, activism, and scholarly engagement. Some students will work as a team on an ongoing project on mapping human rights in North Carolina, with a specific focus on indigenous and Latina/o and Latinx communities. Students are expected to draw heavily on the materials at the Duke Human Rights Archive. Travel over spring break is required, where the cohort will visit civil rights sites, sites of current activism, and indigenous/migrant communities.
Instructors: Liliana Paredes and Robin Kirk

Lead Faculty

Liliana Parades

Liliana Parades

Professor of the Practice of Spanish, Director of Undergraduate Studies (Spanish and Portuguese) Department of Romance Studies and Linguistics

Robin Kirk

Faculty Co-Chair of the Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute; Professor of the Practice in Cultural Anthropology

Melissa A. Simmermeyer

Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director Spanish Language Program, Department of Romance Studies

Program contacts: Email Robin Kirk (rights@duke.edu) or Duke Immerse (immerse@duke.edu) for more information.


All students who are interested, regardless of documentation or citizenship status, are encouraged to apply; accommodations and opportunities will be made for students who are unable to travel. We welcome Durham-based DKU students and UNC Robertson Scholars to apply. Please email Duke Immerse director (immerse@duke.edu) if you are interested in participating. Complete the online application using MyExperientialEd.

Elizabeth Barahona quote, "“Duke Immerse was one of the best decisions I made in my undergraduate education because it allowed me to create strong relationships with my professors and peers, explore a topic in depth and improve my research skills.”