Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2013 > From Moral Panics to States of Denial: A celebration of the life and work of Stan Cohen

From Moral Panics to States of Denial: A celebration of the life and work of Stan Cohen

UN International Human Rights Day Event

  • Tuesday 10 December 2013
  • Speakers: Professor Robin Cohen; Professor David Downes; Daphna Golan; Thomas Hammarberg; Professor Harvey Molotch
  • Chair: Margo Picken

Stan Cohen was a world class sociologist, criminologist and public intellectual whose insight, analysis, commitment and wit inspired and influenced innumerable students, activists and colleagues. This event, which featured contributions from friends and colleagues, honoured Stan and reflected on his legacy.


Event Recordings

Video and audio recordings available here   

About the speakers

Like his brother, Stan, Robin Cohen was born in Johannesburg and educated at Parktown Boys High School and the University of the Witwatersrand. He too did a Masters' at LSE. Thereafter, their paths diverged, Robin spending extended periods in Nigeria, Trinidad and, after the end of apartheid, back in South Africa, where he was Dean of Humanities at the University of Cape Town. In the UK, he has worked at Birmingham, Warwick and Oxford, where he is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies and principal investigator on the Oxford Diasporas Programme. He writes on globalization, migration and creolization; his best-known book is Global Diasporas: an Introduction (2008).

David Downes's work has ranged from a study of delinquency in London's East End to a comparative analysis of Dutch and English penal policy. He is emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the LSE, where he taught the sociology of crime and criminal justice for over forty years. Stan began and ended his academic career at the School, where Downes supervised his doctoral research on vandalism for a while and later worked jointly with him and others in founding the National Deviancy Conference and teaching on the MSc in Crime, Deviance and Control. Even at a distance, for years went by without them meeting, Stan’s sheer originality, drive and wit were a constant source of inspiration and friendship.

Daphna Golan is a sociologist who teaches human rights at the faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the director of Campus-Community Partnership for Social Change and the Human Rights Internship Programs.  She was the founding research director of B'Tselem- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Together with Stan Cohen she wrote the first report on torture in Israel, which was published by B'Tselem in 1991. She was a close friend of Stan and stood with him and with his late wife Ruth, in tens of demonstrations for peace and human rights in Israel and Palestine. Her books include; Inequality in Education (in Hebrew) and Next Year in Jerusalem: Everyday Life in a Divided Land, which was published by the New Press, 2005.

Thomas Hammarberg is a human rights activist who until recently was the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Earlier he had positions as Secretary General of Amnesty International, Swedish Save the Children and Olof Palme International Center. He was also UN envoy for human rights in Cambodia in the late nineties. When trying to establish an international think-tank on human rights together with Margo Picken and other activists from the "human rights community", he met Stan Cohen for the first time in a joint project. Cooperation (and deep friendship) developed. Stan became a highly respected member of the Geneva-based International Council on Human Rights Policy, which Thomas chaired. An early version of what became Stan's States of Denial was discussed in a highly interesting seminar among activist friends.

Harvey Molotch is a sociologist who researches metropolitan growth, industrial design, media, and urban security. He was Stan's colleague and close friend at three different institutions: Essex, University of California (Santa Barbara), and LSE. Molotch's most recent book, much owing to Stan's inspiration, is Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger. For the last dozen years he has been Professor of Sociology and Metropolitan Studies at New York University. His work has won multiple honors for achievement across a variety of fields. 

Margo Picken is a visiting fellow at LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights and has been concerned with human rights for much of her working life. She first met Stan and Ruth on a visit to Jerusalem in 1991 when she was in responsible for the international human rights program at the Ford Foundation in New York. They became friends and after returning to London in 1995, Stan and she proposed establishing a human rights centre and Masters course at LSE and worked with others to bring these to fruition. She has also worked for Amnesty International and the UN and has published several articles on human rights.