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Micheline Ishay is a political scientist known for her work in political theory, international relations, human rights, foreign policy, and the Middle East. She is Distinguished Professor of International Studies and Human Rights at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she serves as Director of the International Human Rights Program. She is an affiliate faculty member with the Center for Middle East Studies, was Executive Director of the Center on Rights Development, and in 2008 was named University of Denver Distinguished Scholar. She also serves as Vice Director of the International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (Paris).

Ishay received a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Studies from Rutgers University. She was a fellow at the Center for Critical Culture and Contemporary Analysis, Rutgers University; Assistant Professor at Hobart and William Smith College; Senior Fellow at the Center for Democracy Collaborative, University of Maryland (2004); Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University (2006); and Visiting Professor, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (2010-2013). She was Resident Fellow at the Bellagio Center, Rockefeller Foundation, Italy, Fall 2015. Often interviewed in the international press, Ishay frequently contributes to international forums in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

She is the author of five books, including Internationalism and Its Betrayal (University of Minnesota Press, 1995) and The Nationalism Reader (Humanities Press, 1995; Prometheus, 1999). Her books, The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era (2004, 2008) and The Human Rights Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches, and Documents from Ancient Times to the Present (1997, 2008) have been translated into multiple languages and published in second editions. A third edition of The Human Rights Reader is currently in preparation. Her most recent book, The Levant Express: The Arab Uprisings, Human Rights, and the Future of the Middle East, was published in 2019 by Yale University Press.

From 2010 to 2013, Ishay worked in the Gulf region from a unique vantage point, as a female American scholar in human rights. She had the good fortune to teach one of the first human rights courses in the Arab world just before and throughout the tumultuous events starting in late 2010. The UAE was in the eye of a historical storm throughout her time there, and she met regularly with diplomats, world leaders, scholars and journalists from the U.S., the West, and the Arab world. As a professor at Khalifa University’s Institute for International and Civil Security, she taught courses in critical thinking at the graduate level, and had the privilege to learn from Emirati and Arab nationals about their hopes and fears as upheaval shook the region around them. 

Responding to the recent surge of populism and authoritarianism, Ishay’s current research concerns the future of internationalism amidst post-pandemic recession and protests. Her ​Internationalism and Its Betrayal unveiled after the Cold War the early contradictions of liberal internationalism during the Enlightenment. This
latest project, tentatively titled Atlas Unbound: Internationalism and the Future of Human Rights, draws on the failures and successes of old internationalist experiments to propose constructive possibilities for global governance, based on universal rights, to address current challenges.

Korbel School of International Studies Faculty Page

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