Biography

Ruth Kelly is the Fund for Global Human Rights postdoctoral research fellow at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights.

In that role, she supports the Symposium on Strength and Solidarity which aims to build resilience in human rights organisations globally. Her research is on epistemic injustice and cross-cultural perspectives on human rights and development, exploring how storytelling and leisurely, playful interaction can help activists reimagine justice. Since 2016 she has been working with artists, activists and academics from Bangladesh, Uganda and the UK doing research on art, activism and the political imagination.

Ruth was also Fox International Fellow at Yale University in 2008-9. She completed her LL.M at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, and did her PhD in Politics at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York. She is currently Chair of the Electoral Reform Society and has worked with ActionAid, Oxfam, UNDP and the European Commission.
 

Publications

Recent additions

  • R Kelly, 'Re-membering Red Riding Hood: Situated Solidarities between Ireland and Uganda.' (2021) Feminist Theory (forthcoming)
    Red Riding Hood is a story that has been retold and reimagined more frequently than most. Where the oral tradition often celebrated Red’s sexuality and cunning, literary versions transform the tale into one in which a young girl is blamed for her own rape – or, in many feminist versions, where she fights back. Drawing on discussions with writers and feminist activists in Uganda, and on work by Ugandan and Irish writers and scholars, I explore how this troubling and ambiguous story can be used to facilitate communication across difference and culturally-situated solidarities. I present a retelling of Red Riding Hood from an Irish perspective, using this as a springboard to explore parallels and disjunctures between Irish and Ugandan storytelling traditions and perspectives on women’s rights and sexuality. I explore the potential of using this well-known European story to surface and contest dominant framings of women’s rights, and as a contact point to enable dialogue between more peripheral European (Irish) and Ugandan (Buganda and Busoga) cultural traditions, facilitating mutual recognition, while remaining aware of and explicitly surfacing differences between these traditions. Telling and retelling ambiguous stories like Red Riding Hood can create space to consider where we come from and what we desire, and how those desires might be engaged through or might influence relationships of solidarity.
  • R Kelly, 'Translating rights and articulating alternatives: rights-based approaches in ActionAid’s work on unpaid care' (2019) 23 International Journal of Human Rights 862
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2017.1314646
    The adoption of a rights-based approach at ActionAid has transformed the non-governmental organisation’s structure, processes and priorities. Yet the organisation may have underestimated the tension between pre-existing participatory work and rights-based approaches, and between grassroots definitions of rights and the rights prioritised in national and international advocacy and campaigning. By looking at the evolution of ActionAid’s work on unpaid care, we can see how the organisation has built on work translating rights to make them relevant for local communities and begun to promote alternative articulations of rights and of rights-based approaches inspired by participatory work with communities.

Journal Article (4)

R Kelly, 'Re-membering Red Riding Hood: Situated Solidarities between Ireland and Uganda.' (2021) Feminist Theory (forthcoming)
Red Riding Hood is a story that has been retold and reimagined more frequently than most. Where the oral tradition often celebrated Red’s sexuality and cunning, literary versions transform the tale into one in which a young girl is blamed for her own rape – or, in many feminist versions, where she fights back. Drawing on discussions with writers and feminist activists in Uganda, and on work by Ugandan and Irish writers and scholars, I explore how this troubling and ambiguous story can be used to facilitate communication across difference and culturally-situated solidarities. I present a retelling of Red Riding Hood from an Irish perspective, using this as a springboard to explore parallels and disjunctures between Irish and Ugandan storytelling traditions and perspectives on women’s rights and sexuality. I explore the potential of using this well-known European story to surface and contest dominant framings of women’s rights, and as a contact point to enable dialogue between more peripheral European (Irish) and Ugandan (Buganda and Busoga) cultural traditions, facilitating mutual recognition, while remaining aware of and explicitly surfacing differences between these traditions. Telling and retelling ambiguous stories like Red Riding Hood can create space to consider where we come from and what we desire, and how those desires might be engaged through or might influence relationships of solidarity.
R Kelly, 'Bombo Road, Kampala' (2019) 22 Irish Journal of Anthropology 7
This poem was composed and revised for the fortnightly poetry circle organised by Lantern Meet Foundation in Kampala, Uganda. It provides a sensual description of my experience of occupying ways of perceiving and being that are similar to those engaged in by the artists and activists I am working with in Uganda, namely negotiating Kampala traffic. The representation of love and risk also reflects the emotive and sensory backdrop against which ethnographic research is carried out.
R Kelly, 'Translating rights and articulating alternatives: rights-based approaches in ActionAid’s work on unpaid care' (2019) 23 International Journal of Human Rights 862
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2017.1314646
The adoption of a rights-based approach at ActionAid has transformed the non-governmental organisation’s structure, processes and priorities. Yet the organisation may have underestimated the tension between pre-existing participatory work and rights-based approaches, and between grassroots definitions of rights and the rights prioritised in national and international advocacy and campaigning. By looking at the evolution of ActionAid’s work on unpaid care, we can see how the organisation has built on work translating rights to make them relevant for local communities and begun to promote alternative articulations of rights and of rights-based approaches inspired by participatory work with communities.
R Kelly, 'Speculative fiction and resistance: stories from Octavia’s brood' (2018) 1 Cultivate: The Feminist Journal of the Centre for Women's Studies
Despite their patriarchal, imperialistic and racist histories, women throughout the centuries have turned to speculative/science and utopian fiction to imagine subversive possibilities. Speculative fiction can be a tool for generating strategies and playing out possible responses to current and future catastrophes. Traditional vernacular texts, like folktales, jokes and songs allow oppressed groups to make political statements that would otherwise not be possible. Women in particular have used such genres, and modern, hybrid forms, to articulate subversive possibilities, often by retelling existing tales. Just as folktales have been retold by many storytellers, science fiction includes a rich vein of retold stories, or fan fiction. The anthology Octavia’s Brood (2015) includes speculative fiction written by activists and closely connected to their activist practice. The authors take inspiration from the work of Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin to invent characters that take risks, are punished and yet have hope in the face of an uncertain future. I read these stories through the lens of Donna Haraway’s essay ‘A cyborg manifesto’ (1991 [1984]) and Hélène Cixous’ essay ‘The laugh of the medusa’ (1976), exploring how the stories can be seen as part of an aesthetic of resistance and the importance of aesthetic forms – notably origin stories and myths – within the stories themselves.

Chapter (1)

Report (2)

Research projects