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ASU professor awarded fellowship at Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

Portrait of ASU Assistant Professor Audrey Comstock.

Audrey Comstock

September 07, 2022

Audrey Comstock, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has dedicated her career to researching, teaching, understanding and exploring human rights issues.

This month, she joins a community of global human rights scholars, researchers, students and practitioners as a 2022–23 fellow with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“I am humbled and thrilled to be selected by Harvard University for this opportunity,” Comstock said. “I grew up in a rural, poor area in upstate New York where a fellowship like this at Harvard was certainly not the expectation, nor was going to college or graduate school … The Carr Center is a leader in the study of human rights … I’m really excited to be part of this intellectual community.”

Founded in 1999, the Carr Center’s mission is to educate students and the next generation of leaders from around the world in human rights policy and practice, and to convene and provide policy-relevant knowledge to international organizations, governments, policymakers and business.

Through the fellowship, scholars have the opportunity to conduct research at Harvard University, share experiences with students and explore critical human rights issues with a distinguished group of peers.

Comstock, who has been with ASU since 2017, teaches and researches political science and human rights in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She is also the associate director of the Global Human Rights Hub, a senior sustainability scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and is affiliated with the Center on the Future of War

“Professor Comstock is a highly valued member of the Global Human Rights Hub executive committee. As associate director of the hub, her research exemplifies our commitment to transform rigorous, cutting-edge research into policy-relevant recommendations,” said Heather Smith-Cannoy, associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Global Human Rights Hub. 

“Her work on sexual abuse and U.N. peacekeeping missions, which she will be working on in conjunction with this fellowship, is sure to break new ground in this incredibly important area of study.”

Comstock’s research focuses on the intersection of political science, international relations and international law, exploring international human rights law, the United Nations, global women’s and LGBT rights and peacekeeping. She uses quantitative and qualitative methods to study how states negotiate international human rights law, the role of non-binding commitment and how sexual exploitation and abuse is punished within U.N. peacekeeping missions. 

Her recent book, “Committed to Rights: UN Human Rights Treaties and Legal Paths for Commitment and Compliance,” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2021. Comstock received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University at Albany and PhD and master’s degrees in government from Cornell University.

During her year as a Carr Center Fellow, she plans to develop her second book, “Punishing Peacekeepers,” which will examine civilians who were sexually exploited and abused by U.N. peacekeepers during missions.  

“In the book, I explore when and how the U.N. and home countries hold peacekeepers accountable after harming the people they’ve been tasked to protect,” Comstock said. “This project involves quantitative analysis of abuse and punishment, interviews with U.N. and nongovernmental organization workers and with archival research into past mission behavior.”

Comstock will also be mentored by Kathryn Sikkink, a pioneer in the academic study of human rights and renowned scholar who works on international norms and institutions, transnational advocacy networks, the impact of human rights law and policies, transitional justice and the laws of war.

The fellowship term began Sept. 1, 2022 and will run until June 30, 2023. During the fall semester, Comstock will participate in the fellowship remotely, and in the spring she will travel to Harvard to participate in a number of events and activities in person.

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