When Julian Burger takes the lectern at the University of Illinois tonight, he’ll turn his attention to one question: What’s the state of human rights in today’s world?
As the guest speaker at the 17th Annual Daniel S. Sanders Peace & Social Justice Lecture, Burger will deliver a talk titled, “After 60 Years of Human Rights: Is there Cause for Celebration?” Burger is well qualified to address this topic; he currently serves as the coordinator of the Indigenous and Minorities Unit at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which his based in Geneva, Switzerland. He’s also an internationally renowned authority on indigenous cultures and human rights.
Burger’s lecture coincides with the 60th anniversary of the 1948 United Nations General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the website for the university’s School of Social Work, which is the primary sponsor of the event, Burger “will explore the accomplishments and challenges for human rights and indigenous peoples” since the declaration was passed.
While Burger’s talk is billed as a general consideration of indigenous peoples and human rights worldwide, it will have particular resonance in Champaign-Urbana, where the university’s Chief mascot was retired due to its overt racial caricaturing as well as its perceived racist implications.
For many years, Burger, author of The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples, has argued that the racism faced by indigenous cultures — and, more generally, by minority cultures — is evolving, nuanced and worthy of careful inspection. In a 2001 address to the Indigenous Peoples and Racism Conference in Sydney, Australia, Burger remarked that global concerns about racism are spurred “not only by the idea that the racism of the past is prevalent in contemporary society, but by a concern that new political and economic forces and conditions may be leading to new forms of exclusion and marginalization along ethnic lines.”
Burger will be speaking at 7:30 p.m. at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center Ballroom, 601 S. Lincoln Avenue in Urbana. Admission is free and open to the public.