Current Courses

The following is a list of Human Rights (HMRT) courses and cross-listed courses for the 2015-2016 school year. This list is subject to change.

>> Autumn Quarter 2015
>> Winter Quarter 2016  
>> Spring Quarter 2016

Please check the Registrar Time Schedules for the most current information each quarter. The College Course Catalog contains a list of undergraduate Human Rights courses offered each year.


Autumn Quarter 2015: Human Rights Courses

Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights
HMRT 20300/30300
Cross-listed: HIST 29303/39303, INRE 31800, LAWS 78201, LLSO 27200
Susan Gzesh, Senior Lecturer in the College; Executive Director, PFCHR
Mon/Wed: 3:00–4:20pm
This course uses an interdisciplinary approach to analyze the application of international human rights to domestic and international issues. We present several specific case studies as a means to explore the interrelationship of human rights instruments and agencies, principles such as universalism v. cultural relativism, and the role of NGOs, film and other media in advocacy efforts. Topics will include the prohibition on torture at home and abroad, women’s rights as human rights, cultural relativism vs. universalism, and the right to health.  Students will have a mid-term paper which will lead to their final paper on a topic of their choosing.

Foundations of Human Rights
HMRT 30600
Cross-listed: HIST 67102, MAPS 30700, PHIL 31620, PLSC 31700
Adam Etinson, Lecturer in Human Rights, PFCHR; Visiting Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Tue/Thu: 1:30–2:50pm
Note: graduate students only
This seminar will provide graduate students with an advanced introduction to the study of human rights, covering key debates in history, law, philosophy, political science, international relations, social science, and critical theory. As a graduate seminar, this will be a small class (capped at 20 students), and a strong emphasis will be placed on in-class discussion and debate. The course will examine cutting-edge research on topics including: the origins of human rights (Section I); the concept of human dignity (Section II); the nature and grounds of human rights (Section III); the relationship between human rights morality and law (Section IV); the legality and morality of humanitarian intervention (Section V); the feasibility and claimability of human rights (Section VI); contemporary criticisms of human rights (Section VII); human rights and the accommodation of diversity (Section VIII); and the future of human rights (Section IX).

Slavery Since Emancipation
HMRT 25110/35110

Kevin Bales, Pozen Visiting Professor; Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, UK
Tue/Thu: 10:30–11:50am
In this course we’ll explore the recent history of slavery as well as global slavery in the present moment. Too often those who are concerned about, and making policy on, issues of human trafficking and modern slavery do so with little understanding of its recent history or its current extent. The result is a shallow view and equally shallow policies. In fact, there has never been a day in human history, or in the history of the USA, without slavery. The volume or prevalance of slavery may change, as well as the types and forms of slavery, but slavery is a constant. A key aim of this course is to ground our understanding of slavery, and to learn how ‘historical’ cases and types of slavery help us to better understand the slavery around us today.

The Human Behind Human Rights
HMRT 29002

Cross-listed: ANTH 25250; others pending
Yaqub Hilal, Graduate Lecturer (Anthropology)
Mon/Wed: 1:30-2:50pm
The exhibition of ‘primitive’ peoples in European capitals began in the 1870s and continued well into the 20th Century. The exhibits drew in hundreds of thousands of spectators and were a considerable source of revenue for those who curated them. Today such zoos are illegal in Europe and most Europeans would be repulsed by the very idea of displaying human beings in this way. How do we explain this turnabout in European laws and attitudes? Why did it take so long for Europeans to realize that the non-Europeans put on display were, like themselves, human beings with human rights? If it is obvious to us, why was it not obvious to them? The following course considers what it means to be human and the rights and obligations this quality is supposed to confer. According to what criteria do we determine the humanity of another being or, rather, who gets to decide this criteria? Moreover, what are the implications of this humanity for the types of social relations and political institutions deemed desirable and /or achievable? The selected readings address these questions with a particular focus on liberal understandings of humans and human rights and the systems of knowledge production and power within which these are embedded.


Autumn Quarter 2015: Cross-Listed Courses

Coming soon! Please check the Registrar Time Schedules for a current list.


Winter Quarter 2016: Human Rights Courses

Human Rights II: History and Theory
HMRT 20200

Cross-listed: CRES 29302, HIST 29302, HIST 39302, HMRT 30200, INRE 31700, LAWS 41301, LLSO 27100
Instructor: TBA
Days/time: TBA
This course is concerned with the theory and the historical evolution of the modern human rights regime. It discusses the emergence of a modern “human rights” culture as a product of the formation and expansion of the system of nation-states and the concurrent rise of value-driven social mobilizations. It proceeds to discuss human rights in two prevailing modalities. First, it explores rights as protection of the body and personhood and the modern, Western notion of individualism. Second, it inquires into rights as they affect groups (e.g., ethnicities and, potentially, transnational corporations) or states.

Human Dignity
HMRT 26150

Cross lists: HMRT 36150,INRE 36150,LAWS 78203,PHIL 21625,PHIL 31625
Adam Etinson, Lecturer in Human Rights, PFCHR; Visiting Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Days/time: TBA
This advanced undergraduate course will examine the notion of human dignity, with a special eye towards its role in contemporary human rights discourse. The course begins by tracing the historical development of the idea of human dignity both in philosophy and in law, and from there it moves on to examine contemporary usages. Questions to be examined include the following: What is the meaning of "human dignity"? Is it basic to morality? What is the relationship between human dignity and human rights? Does respect for human dignity require the abolition of capital punishment and/or the permission of assisted suicide, among other practices? Is it an inherently religious idea? What grounding might it have in secular ethics?

Human Rights in Mexico
HMRT 24501

Cross lists: HMRT 34501,LACS 24501,LACS 34501,HIST 29408,HIST 39408
Susan Gzesh, Senior Lecturer in the College; Executive Director, PFCHR
Days/time: TBA
This course is intended to give the student a foundation in understanding human rights as both concept and reality in contemporary Mexico. Subject matter includes an overview of key periods in Mexican history in which concepts of individual and group rights, the relationship between citizens and the state, and the powers of the Church and the state were subject to change. This historical review will form the foundation for understanding human rights issues in contemporary Mexico. The course will also examine modern social movements which frame their demands as human rights.
Prerequisite(s): A reading knowledge of Spanish and at least one course on Latin American history or culture are required.

Health and Human Rights
HMRT 21400/31400

Cross lists: MEDC 60405
Renslow Sherer, Professor, Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Global Health
Evan Lyon, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Hospital Medicine
Days/time: TBA
This course attempts to define health and health care in the context of human rights theory and practice. Does a “right to health” include a “right to health care"? We delineate health care financing in the United States and compare these systems with those of other nations. We explore specific issues of health and medical practice as they interface in areas of global conflict: torture, landmines, and poverty. Readings and discussions explore social determinants of health: housing, educational institutions, employment, and the fraying of social safety nets. We study vulnerable populations: foster children, refugees, and the mentally ill. Lastly, does a right to health include a right to pharmaceuticals? What does the big business of drug research and marketing mean for our own country and the world?


Winter Quarter 2016: Cross-Listed Courses

List will be updated as course information becomes availabile.


Spring Quarter 2016: Human Rights Courses

Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights
HMRT 20100/30100
Cross-listed: HIST 29301/39301, INRE 31600, LAWS 41200, LLSO 25100, MAPH 40000, PHIL 21700/31600
Ben Laurence, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and the College
Days/Times: TBA
Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide.

Human Rights and Human Diversity
HMRT 26151

Cross lists: HMRT 36151,PHIL 21701,PHIL 31621,MAPH 36151,CRES 26151,CRES 36151,GNSE 26151,GNSE 36151,CHSS 36151,HIPS 26151,LLSO 26151
Adam Etinson, Lecturer in Human Rights, PFCHR; Visiting Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Days/time: TBA
It is no secret that human beings frequently disagree on matters both large and small. Our neighbors hold religious beliefs that we do not. They disagree with us on scientific matters, such as the reality of climate change. They have different life priorities. And they have moral intuitions that often differ strikingly from our own. At the level of whole communities, these differences seem to grow even starker. The highly visible ideological conflicts between the nations of Western Europe and North America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia on matters of religious freedom, freedom of expression, democracy, gender equality, gay rights, and the rights of children serve as a constant reminder of this. This is the reality in which defenders and practitioners of human rights have to operate. And it is therefore important to think about how these disagreements and differences should impact both our understanding and implementation of human rights, if at all. That is the aim of this course.

Literature and Human Rights
Cross lists: TBA
Hadji Bakara, Graduate Lecturer (English)
Days/time: TBA
Less than a decade ago literary critics had little interest in human rights, and scholars of human rights (few that they were) made no mention of literature. Today, however, scholars across disciplines –in and outside of the academy –– argue that literature is indispensable to the spread and maintenance of human rights, and furthermore, that human rights have a distinctly literary genealogy: the novel.
This course takes stock of the recent surge of interest in the relation between literature and human rights and gives students with a diverse range of interests the opportunity to consider if and how literature raises awareness of human rights and thus contributes the alleviation of human suffering. The course begins by exploring how literary texts give form and meaning to human life, beginning with some of the earliest literary works (Iliad, Sappho’s lyric poetry, Shakespeare’s sonnets, the early novel). We then move through a range of issues central to the development of contemporary rights thinking –– slavery, private property, empire, women’s rights, refugees, labor rights –– by way of some canonical literary works (Melville, Kafka, Mary Shelley). Finally, we trace the rise of a global human rights movement in the late 20th century, focusing on key issues like torture, censorship, genocide, mass incarceration, and apartheid, and key authors (Solzhenitsyn, Cortázar, Gordimer, Ondaatje). We end by turning our attention locally and considering the long tradition of torture and human rights abusesagainst African Americans in Chicago.


Spring Quarter 2016: Cross-Listed Courses

List will be updated as course information becomes availabile.