The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Luis van Isschot

Assistant Professor

Office Location:  Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St George St, Room 3109, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3


Luis van Isschot is a historian of modern Latin America, specializing in the study of social movements, political violence and human rights.  His first book The Social Origins of Human Rights: Protesting Political Violence in Colombia’s Oil Capital, 1919-2010, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2015 as part of their Critical Human Rights series.

His is currently working on the history of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Since the late 1980s there has been a dramatic tendency towards the international judicialization of rights claims. While this trend is global, nowhere has its impact been greater than in Latin America. In a short period of time, court proceedings from Madrid, Spain to San José, Costa Rica have transformed the way in which human rights advocacy in the region is organized. The aim of this project is to understand the effects of these cases on the societies concerned.

His newest research project concerns Latin American participation in global anti-colonial movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

For more than a decade Luis van Isschot he has been academically and professionally concerned with international human rights. He has conducted research and worked on behalf of non-governmental organizations in Latin America, North America and Africa.

He received his PhD in History from McGill University in 2010.  Prior to his appointment to the University of Toronto, van Isschot worked at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal, was a postdoctoral fellow at the City University of New York, and Assistant Professor of History and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut.

Book Chapters

“Rural Colombia: The Architecture of State-Sponsored Violence and New Power Configurations” in Liisa North and Timothy D. Clark, Dominant Elites in Latin America: From Neo-Liberalism to the “Pink Tide” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2017), 119-148.

“The Heart of Activism in Colombia: Reflections on Activism and Oral History Research in a Conflict Area”, in Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki, eds. Off the Record: Unspoken Negotiations in the Practice of Oral History. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 239-254. Recipient of the 2013 Oral History Association Book Award.

Journal Article

“Assessing the Record of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Latin America’s Rural Conflict Zones (1979-2016)”, International Journal of Human Rights, (2017), 1-25.

Special Issue of Journal

Luis van Isschot, Catherine LeGrand and Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, eds. “Land, Memory and Justice in Colombia”, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 42:3 (November 2017), 259-426.

Authored Publications:


  • PhD, McGill University