Helle Porsdam | 2021

Visiting September - November 2021

Helle Porsdam is Professor of Law and Humanities at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law (CIS), Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. She teaches American Culture and History in the SAXO Department, Faculty of the Humanities, University of Copenhagen, and Law and Humanities, the Culture and History of Human Rights and Cultural Rights at the Faculty of Law. She also holds a UNESCO Chair in Cultural Rights.

Helle did her PhD in American Studies at Yale University, has been a Liberal Arts Fellow twice at the Harvard Law School, as well as a fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich.

The Right to Science and Knowledge Production

I am an interdisciplinary scholar who divides my time between the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law and the Department of History, University of Copenhagen. My first degree was in English literature and at Yale University, I wrote my PhD-dissertation on a topic within American literature. When I came back to my native Denmark, I moved from literature to history – and then eventually to the cultural role of law, law and humanities, and human rights.

Today, my scholarly interest focuses on cultural human rights. This is reflected in my UNESCO Chair in Cultural Rights at the University of Copenhagen. The right to science, one of the four core cultural human rights, is a gateway right. First set out in Article 27 of the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and then made legally binding by Article 15 of the 1966 International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), it plays a key role in realizing all other human rights. The implication is that, just as governments are expected to respect the rights to, say, freedom of speech and due process, so they must also adopt measures to respect and ensure the right to science.

During my stay at the Centre for Global Knowledge Studies (gloknos, at CRASSH), I will work on aspects of the right to science that concern knowledge production and the conditions under which such production takes place. These include scientific freedom and responsibility, and also science diplomacy.

The aim is to organise work-in-progress seminars and to co-edit a volume of essays with Dr Hamati-Ataya so as to consolidate the relationship with gloknos and CRASSH, and host the book launch for The Right to Science: Then and Now (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2021)

I furthermore intend to interact with other parts of the Cambridge University community such as the Fitzwilliam Museum. I am interested in pursuing, together with scholars at the Fitzwilliam Museum (and perhaps also other Cambridge museums), my interest in natural heritage and hope to gain more knowledge about the role of cultural heritage museums as disseminators of science and culture.

Monographs and edited volumes (selected)

(2022) H Porsdam, Science As a Cultural Human Right (Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press – forthcoming)

(2021) H Porsdam & S Porsdam Mann (eds.) The Right to Science: Then and Now (Cambridge University Press – in print)

(2019) H Porsdam. The Transforming Power of Cultural Rights: A Promising Law and Humanities Approach (Cambridge University Press)

(2017) L Belder & H Porsdam (eds.). Negotiating Cultural Rights: Issues at Stake, Challenges and Recommendations (Edward Elgar)

Articles and book chapters (selected):

(2020) S P Mann, H Porsdam and Y Donders, “’Sleeping Beauty’: The Right to Science as a Global Ethical Discourse,” Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 42, Number 2, pp. 332-356, 10.1353/hrq.2020.0020

(2018) S Porsdam Mann, C Mitchell, V J Bradley, M F Chou, G Church, M Mann, Y Donders, H Porsdam, Opinion piece, “On the Human Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress”, (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) PNAS October 23, 2018 115 (43) 10820-10823; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816320115