Our Human Rights curriculum includes introductory courses on the philosophical foundations and contemporary issues in human rights, as well as elective courses with disciplinary, thematic, and/or regional perspectives. College students can enroll in our Human Rights in World Civilizations Core sequence or the Spring Quarter study abroad in Vienna.
The College Course Catalog contains a list of undergraduate Human Rights courses offered each year. You can also browse our previous course offerings (Autumn 2001-Spring 2020).
Read what the College’s updated Spring 2020 Pass/Fail policy means for Human Rights minors.
The Human Rights courses we’re offering during the 2021-22 academic year are included below:
Courses and cross-lists will be updated as details become available. For the most current information about schedule and classroom details, use the Class Search on the Academic Information System.
Please contact Kathy Scott with questions about Human Rights course administration.
Human Rights in World Civilizations I
The first quarter begins with a set of conceptual problems and optics designed to introduce students to the critical study of human rights, opening up questions of the universal, human dignity, and the political along with the practices of witness and testimony. It is followed by two thematic clusters. "Anti-Slavery, Humanitarianism, and Rights" focuses on the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to historicize notions of dignity, sympathy, and witness. "Declarations as a Human Rights Genre" examines revolutionary eighteenth-century rights declarations in France, the United States, and Haiti against the aspirations of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. These courses must be taken in sequence.
Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations
Ben Laurence, Associate Instructional Professor (Pozen Center)
Lecture: T/Th, 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Discussion Section 1: Fri, 9:30 -10:20 AM
Discussion Section 2: Fri, 10:30 -11:20 AM
Discussion Section 3: Fri, To be arranged with instructor
Cross-lists: HMRT 31002, HIST 29319, HIST 39319, INRE 31602, LLSO 21002, MAPH 42002, PHIL 21002, PHIL 31002
In this class we will explore the philosophical foundations of human rights, investigating theories of how our shared humanity in the context of an interdependent world gives rise to obligations of justice. In the first weeks of the course, we begin by asking what rights are, how they are distinguished from other parts of morality, and what role they play in our social and political life. We will consider two theories of rights in general: the interest theory of rights and the second-personal theory of rights. But rights come in many varieties, and we are interested in human rights in particular. In later weeks, we will ask what makes something a human right, and how are human rights different from other kinds of rights. We will consider a number of contemporary philosophers who attempt to answer this question, including James Griffin, Joseph Raz, John Rawls, John Tasioulas, and Martha Nussbaum. Throughout we will be asking questions such as, “What makes something a human right?”; “What role does human dignity play in grounding our human rights?”; “Are human rights historical?”; “What role does the nation and the individual play in our account of human rights?”; “When can one nation legitimately intervene in the affairs of another nation?”; “How can we respect the demands of justice while also respecting cultural difference?”
Militant Democracy and the Preventative State
Kathleen Cavanaugh, Executive Director, Senior Lecturer (Pozen Center & The College)
T/Th: 9:30 - 10:50 AM
Are states of exception still exceptional? The current debates and developments as well as the existential governmental crises has led to a securitization of rights. State security discourse narrates how states understand and mediate their legal obligations and has been used justify pre-emptive actions and measures which otherwise would not fit within an international law framework. When narrated in the public square, States often construct a discourse around a necessity defence—measures that may be extra-legal but argued to be necessary to protect democratic values and the democratic ‘way of life.’ This typifies what we refer to as ‘militant democratic’ language of the ‘preventive state’ and has been most visible in the raft of antiterrorism measures that were introduced after the events of September 11, 2001 and remain to date. This course will examine the impact of militant democracy and the preventative state on the current human rights landscape. It will look specifically how the narrative of prevention and protection has impacted normative changes to fundamental human rights and how the permanence of emergency is beginning to give the concept of ‘securitization of rights’ legal legs.
Human Rights Research and Writing I
Nathaniel Gonzalez, Social Science Teaching Fellow (Sociology)
Date and Time: To be arranged with instructor
This course provides an introduction to human rights theory and method for students working on disciplinary or interdisciplinary BA thesis projects that examine human rights topics. Consent required.
Human Rights on the Ground: Ethnographic Perspectives
Jay Henderson, (Anthropology)
W: 12:30 - 2:50 PM
Cross lists: ANTH 25272, CHDV 23145
The aim of this course is to investigate the ways in which ethnographers have dealt with questions of human rights and humanitarianism. While ethnography is the hallmark of anthropology, it has gained popularity in recent years in other fields of social science, from sociology to political science. Over the course of the quarter, we will discuss what makes a human rights ethnography and what we can learn about human rights from the perspective of ethnography. Rather than reading chapters and articles, we will focus on excerpts of full ethnographies. The purpose of this is to delve into the nitty-gritty details of living with (or without) human rights. We will discuss questions such as religious expression in Europe, LGBTQ+ experience in Ireland, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, gender in writing human rights law, humanitarian intervention, and poverty in Africa. Through reading these texts, students will not only learn about human rights from an ethnographic perspective, but they will also gain familiarity with ethnography as a genre.
Ethnic Conflict in Comparative Perspective
Nathaniel Gonzalez, Social Science Teaching Fellow, (Sociology)
M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Cross list: SOCI 20511
This course introduces students to contemporary debates on the significance and implications of group identification within the context of ethnic conflict. Specifically, students will come away from the course with a deep understanding of theories of group identity and will be able to use these theories to examine and compare contemporary cases of group-based violence. We will use these theories to ask questions like: are diverse societies more prone to group violence? what is the relationship between the economy and group conflict? and, what causes neighbors turn on each other? Throughout the course students will be exposed to research from around the globe, encouraging a deeply local but constantly comparative approach to social science. Note that we will grapple with difficult issues in this course such as lynching, ethnic riots, and genocide.
International Human Rights Law and Practice
Kathleen Cavanaugh, Executive Director, Senior Lecturer, (Pozen Center & The College)
T/Th: 12:30 - 1:50 PM
This course will introduce students to the legal architecture of international human rights law. Whilst the legal framing of rights emphasizes universality and the common good, its application reflects the historical compromises and political uncertainties of the times. This course will explore the tensions that are produced when politics meets 'the law' and examine the issues, actors, doctrines and practices that make up the human rights project. As human rights law is evolutive, we will look at how the human rights project has changed and evolved in connection to historical movements and post-colonial politics and has developed in order to address state violence, 'terrorism', minority rights, women's rights, gender and sexuality, transitional justice, health, and responsibility to protect, to name but a few. We will draw on case studies, including the United States, in order to examine the complicated role of the state as both perpetrator and protector and promoter of human rights. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the human rights project; how does it confront the underlying issues of injustice and abuse, as well as the inherent conceptual and structural limitations of supranational human rights mechanisms in addressing and providing remedies for the problems facing the world today.
The Transnational Refugee Regime
Lindsay Gifford, Assistant Research Professor, (Pozen Center)
T/Th: 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM
The right to flee persecution and seek international protection has been codified in international Human Rights and customary law. This course will examine the contemporary transnational refugee regime that has developed around and been informed by this particular rights discourse, particularly in the aftermath of WWII. We will examine various transnational conventions and bodies intended to protect the persecuted, proposed de jure and de facto durable solutions for refugees, and how individuals and communities experience these structures during and after displacement. We also investigate the ways that the transnational refugee regime and its partners (such as NGOs and civil society organizations) are deeply imbricated in broader global power structures and dynamics, creating protections "gaps" and potential rights violations. Specific refugee case studies from around the world will be surveyed in order to contextualize and ground these inquiries.
Autumn 2021 | Cross-Listed Courses
What Is Socialism? Experiences from Eastern Europe
Michaela Appletova, (History)
T/Th: 2:00 - 3:20- PM
Cross lists: HIST 12600, GLST 22600, GNSE 12600
Human Rights: Contemporary Issues
Susan Gzesh, Senior Lecturer (The College)
Lecture: M/W, 4:30 - 5:50 PM
Cross-lists: HIST 29304, LLSO 21001, LACS 21001,SOSC 21001
Ecocentrism and Environmental Racism
Bart Schultz, (Philosophy)
M/W: 1:30 - 2:50 PM
Cross lists: PHIL 21207, MAPH 31207, PLSC 21207, ENST 21207, CRES 21207, CHST 21207
Languages of Migration: Literature, Law, and Language Justice
Yael Flusser, (Comparative Literature)
T/Th: 12:30 - 1:50 PM
Cross lists: CMLT 21648, ENGL 21648
The Collective Self and Its Others in Contemporary Political Communities
Natacha Nsabimana, (Anthropology)
T/Th: 2:00 - 3:20 PM
Cross lists: ANTH 22735, CRES 22735
Immigration, Law and Society
Angela Garcia, (Crown Family School of Social Work)
T/Th: 3:30 - 4:50 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 25003, PBPL 25003, CRES 25003, SOCI 28079, LACS 25003
Documentary Production I
Judy Hoffman, (Cinema Studies)
T/Th: 11:00 AM - 1:50 PM
Cross lists: CMST 23930, CMST 33930, ARTV 33930, ARTV 23930, HMRT 35106, MAAD 23930
How (Not) to Save the World: The History of International Development
Elizabeth Chatterjee, (History)
T/Th: 2:00 - 3:20 PM
Cross lists: HIST 29431,GLST 29431