There’s an interesting debate going on over at openGlobalRights. Drawing on their recent Social Problems article, Neve Gordon and Nitza Berkovitch provocatively accuse human rights quantitative scholars of “concealing social wrongs” by using quantitative cross-national data that does not account for the disproportionately high voter disenfranchisement among African Americans. Todd Landman and Chad Clay, two scholars known for their use/production of quantitative human rights data respond to Gordon and Berkovitch, saying that their piece ignores much quantitative human rights scholarship that is not at the cross-national level, fails to understand the coding decisions and methodology behind cross-national human rights data, and misses what we’ve learned from existing studies. It’s a great discussion and one I’m going to make sure my human rights students all read.
I’m going to take a slightly different approach here in responding to Gordon and Berkovitch, two scholars, I should note, that I have learned a lot from. I think this particular piece, however, is completely disingenuous: there is nothing special about qualitative analysis that necessarily implies that a researcher will observe/record/code group differences in the protection of human rights within a country.