Serena Parekh, Ph.D.’05
How does political change occur? Why does oppression exist? Why is it so difficult to make the world a just place? These are questions of particular interest to Serena Parekh, Ph.D.’05. “I had no interest in what I saw as the number crunching of political science,” she says. “The most important reason I chose to focus on philosophy was because I found it to be the best way to think about the political questions that I found so pressing.”
Parekh is an assistant professor in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Philosophy and holds a joint appointment with the University’s Human Rights Institute—whose research interests include social and political philosophy and the philosophy of human rights. “I’m working on what I call the ‘politics of exclusion’ and am deeply interested in the existence of a group of people that remain perpetually outside of a state—the 50 million or so forcibly displaced persons in the world—and the way that liberal states deal with, or fail to deal with, this group through their policies,” she says.
Parekh’s 2008 book, Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity, is “a systematic account of Arendt’s contribution to our understanding of human rights,” she says. “I tried to do this by looking at her work very broadly and investigating aspects of her thought that were less well understood—such as her interpretation of Kant and Socrates, the relationship between political judgment and our willingness to uphold human dignity.”
The book emerged from Parekh’s dissertation at Boston College, where she worked closely with professors James Bernauer, SJ, David Rasmussen, and Jacques Taminiaux. “Boston College was one of the few schools that combined the two areas I was really interested in—Continental philosophy and social and political thought,” says Parekh. “More deeply, my time at BC shaped the kinds of questions that I’m interested in, especially as they concern social justice and human rights.”