Shayna Plaut

Teaching the Next Generation to Keep a Low Profile: The Chilling Consequences of the #MuslimBan

By Shayna Plaut, Human Rights Contributing Editor

Six summers ago, I made a new friend. She was 7 years old. I was a guest at what I assumed would be a stodgy and staid academic picnic, when the unmistakable sound of a child’s glee made me stop in my tracks. I looked over to see who was laughing with such genuine abandon. A little girl was literally in the air, being swung around by her arms. I knew I needed to meet this little person, as well as the big person who had raised such a live and open spirit.

For Hong Kong Artists, the Internet Is Freedom’s Last Frontier

By Kelly Go

In 2014, the city-state of Hong Kong was swept up in the Umbrella Revolution.  Its leaders were youth, its medium the internet, and the results were hundreds of thousands of bodies on the street voicing strong political demands including the call for universal suffrage. In Hong Kong, political opinions are commonly discussed online and like many international movements – from Occupy to the Arab Spring to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution — the Internet served as a powerful platform to circulate political opinions and mobilize grassroots movements.

The 2014 revolution also marked the emergence of widespread political “derivative work,” more widely known in North America as ‘memes.’ Rather than reproducing the original, derivative work is “creative art that modifies, appropriates, and/or adapts an earlier work….to parody and comment visually on an event or to caricature a public political figure.” Once created, derivative work is uploaded on social-media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and shared widely. Derivative work is powerful because it is activism framed through images of popular culture, often making previously boring political issues come alive on social media.

#decolonizingonebeadatatime: Resistance with Nicole Cardinal from the Dakelh Nation

By Shayna Plaut

Nicole Cardinal is a self-described “matriarch-in-training” from the Dakelh Nation and “a First Nations and Indigenous Studies Warrior.” Deeply committed to her schooling as a mature undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), her number one priority is raising her two young girls with her husband “in the most traditional way possible in urban Vancouver.” In 2015, she made the short four-minute film Resistance as a part of her Indigenous film class at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The film has gained a life of its own that extends far beyond the classroom walls. Resistance details Nicole’s journey into disrupting the ongoing colonial educational system and how she reclaims space – and truths – inside and outside of the classroom through traditional and Western knowledges and practices.

Learning Resistance and Building Solidarity: Black Lives Matter North of the 49th

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

“Ally is a complicated word; sometimes accomplice is better. Accomplices put their body on the line.”
– Dr. JP Catungal, Critical Gender and Sexualities Studies

As I joined the growing number of people standing vigil with Black Lives Matter Vancouver on Sunday July 10th, I immediately recognized Constance Barnes, a charismatic mover and shaker in the worlds of culture, green space and electoral politics of Vancouver. The last time I had seen her was four years ago. We hugged, then standing back she shook her head, “fuckin’ really? I mean, fuckin’ really? This is why my mother and father left the States 60 years ago. And here we are, again?”

When the Personal is Political and the Political is Personal…on Film


By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

Parvez Sharma is a gay, Muslim filmmaker, journalist and writer. He is originally from India and now lives in New York City. His two films: A Jihad for Love (2008) and A Sinner in Mecca (2014) are well known on the festival circuit as well as in human rights and academic circles.

A Descendent of Refugees: Standing in Solidarity with This Generation of Refugees

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

My name means beautiful refugee.

My grandparents on my father’s side were from Germany.

On my mother’s side my people thought they were Austrian, but, when I found the town in 2002, it was in Poland about 45 minutes away from the Ukrainian border.

Teaching Human Rights Inside and Outside the Classroom: Education Without Borders

By Shayna Plaut, Human Rights Contributing Editor

Nearly 300 activists, academics, funders, students and clergy, and people who identify as some combination of these came together at the University of Dayton for the second bi-annual Social Practice of Human Rights conference earlier this month. I organized and facilitated a roundtable bringing together an eclectic array of educators who teach human rights inside and outside the classroom. Our goal was to discuss how we do what we do.

Finding Hope Amidst Despair: Journalism and the Current Refugee Crisis in Europe

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

We’ve seen the body of the toddler Alan Kurdi, who, along with mother and brother, drowned on the shores of Europe seeking safety.

We have heard the impassioned pleas of people from Syria and Afghanistan and Eritrea holding train tickets that are no longer valid.

We have listened in confusion as the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Germany and other Central European countries debate the politics of the European Union as people sleep on the street with neither blankets nor water.

At the Border of People and Policies: Closing the Distance Through Storytelling

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

Once again, the world is obsessed with the supposed decadence and fall of Greece.

In Athens and Brussels, journalists and politicians scramble over budgets, banks, and broken promises to try and explain the drama of failed domestic and European Union (EU) policy. But with all the news and handwringing on Greek economic policy, let us not forget that there are people affected by these policies. And I am not just talking about the pensioners who have had to survive on tight austerity measures. Nor the once middle class who are limited to 60 Euro a day. Nor the shopkeepers that are trying to figure out if they will need to accept the Drachma (the old Greek currency) once the Euro runs out. They have been rightly profiled and interviewed – their voices are part of the conversation.

I am concerned about the people who are not yet part of the conversation. What can we learn about democracy, human rights and economic policy from those clambering to get to the shores of Europe?

On Designing and Teaching “The Framing of Social Justice: Law, Culture and Politics ‘here’ and ‘there’”

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

While musicians often think in rhythms or notes and artists in perspectives or colors, I have potential syllabi rattling in my head. My medium is neither canvas nor score but rather the weaving together of books, graphic novels, guest speakers, dense academic articles, Youtube clips and provocative films into a scaffold body of knowledge. I then title such a creation with a colon and christen it with a course number. Like musicians and artists, I too go through life trying to share and provoke the unfolding puzzles that tickle inside.

My goal when teaching is to work with students so that they start to question what seems normal or is taken for granted, and thus become fluent enough in those knowledges (note plural) that they can develop their own questions. Rather than teaching students to “master” knowledge, my aim is to urge students towards a literacy of questioning and wrestling within many languages, perspectives and mediums. This was the inspiration of my most recent course: the Framing of Social Justice: Law, Culture and Politics “Here” and “There. “Here” because too often we think of human rights and social justice as just a problem that happens “there,” rarely questioning where either “here” or “there” may be.