Professor Danielle Celermajer
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Professor Danielle Celermajer

My professional life has been characterised by moving between organisations whose principal focus is human rights policy, advocacy and scholarship, and seeking a greater integration between these dimensions of human rights work. Since joining the University of Sydney in 2005, I have had the privilege of establishing two postgraduate human rights programs aimed at forging precisely this type of integration between the best of scholarship and effective human rights practice. The Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation(Asia Pacific Program) was established with a 1.5 million euro grant from the European Commission and is now entering its ten years, today running from Mahidol University in Thailand and an integral part of the Global Campus of Human Rights.

Between 2012 and 2015, I led a multi-disciplinary international team seeking to identify and test new approaches to preventing torture in organisations where it is systematic and entrenched. Our team sought to better understand the root causes of torture, particularly those residing in the cultures and processes of security organisations themselves. This European Union funded project focuses on torture in the police and police and military in Sri Lanka and Nepal in partnership with universities in those two countries.

Through these two programs and a range of others in the field of human rights, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has now built a highly innovative human rights program seeking to strengthen and deepen the contribution that humanities and social science scholars can make in the field of human rights.

Prior to joining the academy, I worked as a policy advisor and speechwriter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the Race Discrimination Commissioner in the Australian Human rights Commission.

I am the lead of the Multi species Justice Project, one of the Faculty's six lead themes. Within this project, I am particularly interested in how we rethink the concept of justice when the subjects of justice include humans, other animals and the environment, and their relationships with each other. I am also concerned with how we build the recognition of this broader conception on justice into everyday experience, the organisation of institutions, and political practice.

My research interests in the field of human rights have orbited around three related questions. First, how can we better understand and map the social, political and economic structures and dynamics that underpin and sustain human rights violations? Second, how do we design interventions that will allow us to transform those structures as a means of preventing human rights violations and, more positively, protecting and promoting human rights? Third, what type of transformative work (symbolic and material) can and should be undertaken so as to attend to past violations, and lay the foundations for a future in which relationships and identities are not held in pathological and violent patterns? In exploring these questions, I work at the interface of theory and empirical research.

Parallel with my research in human rights, I also conduct more philosophical work on questions of responsiveness, memory, mourning and the relationship between the past and future. Engaging in particular with the thought of Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas, I am interested in what authentic attentiveness to other subjects demands of us, and what types of practices cultivate our capacity to be for and with the other.

Building on both of these bodies of work, I am now turning to questions about the possibilities of attentiveness, responsiveness and justice for the more-than-human world. What affective capacities and living practices will be required to provide the felt infrastructure for recognising the rights and interests of beings other than humans? How do we cultivate the dispositions that will allow us to be alive to our embeddedness in, and immanent relationship with the more than-human? What would justice for past atrocities entail and how could practices of reparative and transitional justice be developed in relation to the more-than-human? In asking these questions, again, my work insists of a fluid movement between research that takes us into the world of practice and lively theoretical reflection informed by and informing those practices.

Current Primary Research Students:

  • Jarrod Pendleberry

  • Cathy Eatock

  • Sarah (Zetty) Brake

Current Secondary Research Students:

  • Guy Scotton

  • Ume Rubab

  • Seamus Barker

  • Kate Seewald

Developing an ecological approach to human rights research and the prevention of human rights violations.

Institutions, emotions and imaginaries.

Multispecies justice.

Donkeys, ‘feral’ wilds and Ejiao.

Project titleResearch student
Feminist activism in shrinking political spaces: Movement building under Strongman rule in Southeast AsiaKate SEEWALD
Muslim Refugee Women's Identity and Economic EmpowermentUme Rubab SHEIKH

Selected publications

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Selected Grants


  • Academic Coordinator for Research Programme 'Implementation of the Convention of the Rights of persons with Disabilities (CRPD): the participation of Disabled People's Organisation (DPOs)' , Celermajer D, European Commission (Belgium)/Research Support
  • Developing a networked Asia-Pacific Masters Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (2), Celermajer D, European Commission (Belgium)/Research Support


  • Global Sensibilities – The New History of Ideas, Blanshard A, Caine B, Celermajer D, Ferng J, Fitzmaurice A, Gatens M, Harmon C, Johnson M, Milam J, Sluga G, White S, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences/FASS Collaborative Research Scheme
  • The Sydney Social Justice Project, Carney T, Celermajer D, Connell R, Freebody P, Goodwin S, Graycar R, Ivison D, Keane J, Kinley D, Meagher G, Schlosberg D, Sluga G, Tormey S, DVC Research/Research Network Scheme (SyReNS)
  • Addressing the root causes of torture: Actions to reduce and prevent torture in police and military settings in the Asia Pacific region, Celermajer D, European Commission (Belgium)/Research Support
  • The Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society, McCalman I, Schlosberg D, Bashford A, Probyn E, Allon F, Giles P, Smith V, Marks P, Celermajer D, Mikler J, Chester L, Gurran N, Shrestha K, Lyster R, McManus P, Pritchard W, Neilson J, Byrne M, Wright C, de Berigny C, DVC Research/Research Network Scheme (SyReNS)
  • Democratic Governance and Human Rights Program, Celermajer D, Australia Thailand Institute/Research Support


Professor Danielle Celermajer talks about her research interests, the European Union funded Torture Prevention Programme and Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation (Asia Pacific Program), here, and below.

In the media

Guest on ABC's The Minefield on "False necessities: Is 'taste' enough to morally justify the mass slaughter of animals?". Available here.

Appeared on ABC's The Philosopher's Zone on the topic of "The ecology of torture". Available here.

Guest on ABC's The Minefield on the topic of "How important is truth in democratic politics?" Available here.

Appeared on ABC's God Forbid on "Are animals friends or food?". Available here.

Guest on ABC's The Philosopher's Zone on the topic of "On Evil". Available here.

Navigating the minefield of working with perpetrators. OpenDemocracy, 30 March 2017. Available here.

Interviewed for Tony Shepherd says baby boomers are entitled. Look who's talking, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2017. Available here.

Truth and Other Casualties of the Ascent of Trump, ABC Religion & Ethics, 14 November 2016. Available here.

Respect independent statutory bodies as central to democracy, The Conversation, 16 February 2015. Available here.

The poisoned orchard of torture, Aljazeera, 20 December 2014. Available here.

Normalising violence: from Manus Is to CIA torture, The Drum ABC, 19 Dec 2014, Available here.

The Midday Program with Margaret Throsby, March 17, 2014. Available here.

Film reignites debate about Hannah Arendt, Late Night Live ABC, March 6, 2014. Available here.

Torture Causes Long Term Harm, op-ed Sydney Morning Herald, May 18th, 2012. Available here.

The inconsistency of Hannah Arendt, The Philosopher’s Zone ABC, January 29, 2012. Available here.