The 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 may also enroll in the core sequence Human Rights in World Civilizations, the spring quarter study abroad in Vienna, or the September study abroad course in Hong Kong

The College Course Catalog contains a list of undergraduate Human Rights courses offered each year. View all past courses (2001 to Spring 2019).

Current Courses

Human Rights courses offered during the 2019-20 academic year are included below: 

Autumn Quarter 2019 courses
Winter Quarter 2020 courses
Spring Quarter 2020 courses

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. 

Autumn Quarter 2019 | Human Rights Courses

Human Rights in World Civilizations I

HMRT 10100
Section 1: T/Th: 9:30 - 10:50 am, Dan Brudney, (Philosophy)
Section 2: M/W: 11:00 am - 12:20 pm, Tara Zahra, (History)
Section 3: T/Th: 3:30 - 4:50 pm, Sayantan Saha Roy, (Anthropology)
Section 4: M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 pm, Ben Laurence, (Pozen Center)
Cross list: SOSC 24900

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.

Note(s): This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. These courses must be taken in sequence.

Human Rights: Contemporary Issues

HMRT 21001
Susan Gzesh, (The College)
Lecture: M: 3:00 - 4:20 pm
Undergraduate Discussions: W: 3:00 - 4:20 pm
Cross Lists: LACS 21001, HIST 29304, LLSO 21001, HMRT 31001

This interdisciplinary course presents an overview of several major contemporary human rights problems as a means to explore the use of human rights norms and mechanisms. The course addresses the roles of states, inter-governmental bodies, national courts, civil society actors including NGOs, victims, and their families, and other non-state actors. Topics are likely to include universalism, enforceability of human rights norms, the prohibition against torture, U.S. exceptionalism, and the rights of women, racial minorities, and non-citizens.

Incarceration and Justice

HMRT 24208
Alice Kim, Pozen Center
T: 3:30 - 6: 20 pm
Human Rights in World Civilizations 1 or 2 (HMRT 10100/10200); or Contemporary Issues in Human Rights (HMRT 21001); or an HMRT listed elective course is required as a prerequisite. Undergrads Only.

This course will examine long-term sentencing practices and policies in Illinois and nationwide. Policies implemented in the 1980s and 1990s-particularly life without the possibility of parole, mandatory minimums, and "three strikes and you're out" laws contributed to a prison population increase of more than 1.5 million people over the last thirty years. This seminar will explore the impact of these laws and policies, paying special attention to Illinois. In particular, we will explore who is serving life or virtual life sentences, efforts to reverse long-term sentencing policies, and a growing movement to decarcerate.

Queer and Trans Mutual Aid for Survival and Mobilization

HMRT 25002
Dean Spade, Pozen Visiting Professor
T: 11:00 am - 1:50 pm
Cross lists: HMRT 35002, GNSE 25002, GNSE 35002, CRES 25001

This course will examine contemporary and historical queer and trans-focused mutual aid projects, including support for migrants, prisoners, psychiatric survivors, people with HIV/AIDS, and violence survivors. We will look at why mutual aid projects are often under-celebrated in contemporary narratives of social change, when compared with media advocacy and law and policy reform work. Using materials created by activists engaged in building mutual aid projects, as well as scholarly analysis of such efforts, we will look at what principles and methods characterize politicized survival work and how it intentionally departs from charity frameworks.

Grey Zones: Ethics and Decision-Making in the Holocaust

HMRT 28315
Anna Band, Graduate Lecturer, (History)
M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Cross lists: HIST 22019, JWSC 28315

How do ordinary men become ruthless killers? What constitutes 'collaboration' or 'resistance' in the context of total war and genocide? How can we analyze human behavior in a world where normal rules of ethical conduct do not apply? Nearly 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Holocaust still stands as a touchstone in debates about ethics, morality, agency, historical memory, democracy, citizenship, and human rights. This course is foregrounded in the notion that human behavior during Holocaust cannot be understood through the extreme binaries of good and evil, or black versus white. Rather, we will explore the complexities and nuances of human behavior in extremis. Through a series of case studies, we will focus on the experience and behavior of six (sometimes overlapping) groups of people: perpetrators, victims, bystanders, collaborators, resisters, and rescuers. In doing so, we will pay close attention to the moral considerations and ethical dilemmas that influenced their decision-making, as well as the ways in which gender, class, age, ethnicity, and political and religious ideology influenced these choices.

Autumn 2019| Cross-Listed Courses

Philosophies of Environmentalism & Sustainability

HMRT 22201
Reynolds Barton Schultz (Philosophy)
M/W: 1:30 - 2:50 pm
Cross lists: PHIL 22209, GNSE 22204, MAPH 32209, PLSC 22202

Many of the toughest ethical and political challenges confronting the world today are related to environmental issues: for example, climate change, loss of biodiversity, the unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution, and other threats to the well-being of both present and future generations. Using both classic and contemporary works, this course will highlight some of the fundamental and unavoidable philosophical questions presented by such environmental issues. What do the terms "nature" and "wilderness" even mean, and can "natural" environments as such have ethical and/or legal standing? Does the environmental crisis demand radically new forms of ethical and political philosophizing and practice? Must an environmental ethic reject anthropocentrism? If so, what are the most plausible non-anthropocentric alternatives? What counts as the proper ethical treatment of non-human animals, living organisms, or ecosystems? What fundamental ethical and political perspectives inform such approaches as the "Land Ethic," ecofeminism, and deep ecology? Is there a plausible account of justice for future generations? Are we now in the Anthropocene? Is "adaptation" the best strategy at this historical juncture? How can the wild, the rural, and the urban all contribute to a better future for Planet Earth?

Trust after Betrayal: Society-Building in the Aftermath of Atrocity

HMRT 24720
Erin McFee, (Comparative Human Development)
T/Th: 2:00 - 3:20 PM
Cross lists: HMRT 34720, ANTH 24720, ANTH 34720

In this course, students will learn about the moral philosophy and anthropology of trust, mistrust, and betrayal. The course will be structured through four cases: the Colombian Peace Process, Germany's Stasi, the Cultural Revolution in China, and the United States 2008 Financial Crisis. The class will tend towards the discussion seminar format with some short lectures to help students bridge the theoretical and empirical materials. Students will analysis of laws, public discourses, literature, and ethnographic materials to write a final term paper on one of the four cases. As part of the course pedagogy, students will also learn how to form and manage productive writing groups and to write literature reviews that draw from multiple disciplines. The midterm will consist of a their literature review for their final term paper. Authors will include, but are not limited to the following: Baier, Benedict, Carey, Corsín Jimenez, Darwall, Fauklner, Fukuyama, Gambetta, Govier, Hawley, Holton, Jamal, Jones, Kleinman, Lewicki, Luhmann, McAllister, Möllering, Simpson, Tilly, and Widner.

Documentary Production I

HMRT 25106
Judy Hoffman (Cinema and Media Studies)
W/F: 10: 30 am - 1:20 pm
Cross lists: CMST 23930, CMST 33930, ARTV 33930, ARTV 23930, HMRT 35106, MAAD 23930

This course is intended to develop skills in documentary production so that students may apply for Documentary Production II. Documentary Production I focuses on the making of independent documentary video. Examples of various styles of documentary will be screened and discussed. Issues embedded in the documentary genre, such as the ethics and politics of representation and the shifting lines between fact and fiction will be explored. Pre-production methodologies, production, and post-production techniques will be taught. Students will be expected to develop an idea for a documentary video, crews will be formed, and each crew will produce a five-minute documentary. Students will also be expected to purchase an external hard drive.

Hong Kong and Human Rights in Asia

HMRT 25203
Johanna Ransmeier, History
Time/Date: TBA
Cross lists: HIST 24311,EALC 24311
Additional Notes: Admission to Hong Kong September Program

The dynamic city of Hong Kong-a multicultural, special economic zone and a contested democracy with a vibrant popular press and a long history of support for regional grassroots politics-provides the setting for three weeks of investigation of human rights locally and across Asia. Students will become familiar with the human rights challenges facing Hong Kong and the region today. Topics as diverse as labor rights, gender and sexuality, democracy, access to health care and education, and freedom of expression will command our attention. We will also explore the relationship between art, exhibition practices, the media, and human rights. The University of Chicago's new Hong Kong campus will serve as our home base, but much of our time will be spent undertaking short field excursions to speak with human rights actors, journalists, curators, and artists in Hong Kong along with a tentative short trip to southern China. As the capstone of this intensive course, students will create digital, multimedia documentary projects to showcase their engagement with a particular regional or local human rights problem. These projects may combine interviews, photographs and videos, and the production of an original text or artwork.

Humanitarianism: Anthropological Perspectives

HMRT 25270
Sayantan Saha Roy, (Anthropology)
T/Th: 12:30 - 1:50 PM
Cross lists: ANTH 25270

Humanitarianism has emerged as one of the key principles used by states and non-state agencies to justify or call for interventions in contemporary global crisis situations. From health crises, natural disasters and even political instability, humanitarianism has gained an unprecedented global currency as a language of justice. In the last two decades, anthropologists have shown the complexities of humanitarian interventions and its intended and unintended effects. In this course we trace what humanitarianism means, its moral and ethical underpinnings and what are the consequences of humanitarian action. The course will interrogate some of the philosophical, conceptual underpinnings of the idea and their implications in the real world. We will read a range of ethnographies including refugee rehabilitation in France, military interventions in Iraq, philanthropy in India to understand the ways in which humanitarianism has emerged as a global language of justice. The course will help students understand the problem of humanitarianism at both the global and the local levels and also bridge the gap between the normative and the actual.

The Ethics of Immigration

HMRT 27380
Tyler Zimmer, Philosophy
M/W/F: 11:30 am - 12:20 pm
Cross lists: PHIL 27380

In this course we'll investigate philosophical problems underlying contemporary political controversies about immigration. Together, we'll discuss questions such as the following: What gives one group of people the right to forcibly exclude other people from coming to reside somewhere? Is there such a right at all? What moral authority do existing borders have? What role should the idea of "the nation" play in our thinking about immigration? Indeed, what exactly are nations? And is there a compelling case for the exclusion of immigrants that depends on a commitment to preserving a national culture? All of these questions touch on fundamental issues in political philosophy: the nature of citizenship and its relationship to culture, the source of legitimate authority, the justifiability of state coercion, the content and ground of human rights.

United States Labor History

HMRT 28600
Amy Dru Stanley, History
T/Th: 2:00 - 3:20 pm
Cross lists: HIST 18600,LLSO 28000,GNSE 28603

This course will explore the history of labor and laboring people in the United States. The significance of work will be considered from the vantage points of political economy, culture, and law. Key topics will include working-class life, industrialization and corporate capitalism, slavery and emancipation, the role of the state and trade unions, race and sex difference in the workplace.

Structuring Refuge: U.S. Refugee Policy and Resettlement Practice

HMRT 46922
Jessica Darrow, SSA
T: 9:30 am - 12: 20 pm
Cross lists: SSAD 46922,SSAD 26922

At the end of 2017 there were over 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world, the highest number ever recorded (UNHCR, 2019). The number of newly displaced people in 2017 alone was 16.2 million, which is the equivalent of 44,400 new displacements every single day. Over 25.4 million registered refugees were among those displaced, and of these just 102,800 were admitted to third countries for permanent resettlement. Historically the United States has been the largest resettlement country in the world: since 1975 the US has resettled more than 3 million refugees. Refugees in the U.S. are entitled to an array of federal, state, and local supports that other immigrants must do without. At the same time, refugees in the U.S. are arguably subject to greater scrutiny and systems of social control than most other un-incarcerated domestic populations. However, the terrain of U.S. refugee resettlement has shifted dramatically as a result of the Executive Orders introduced by the Trump Administration. This course asks the central questions: How is refugee status constructed as a political process; what are the interrelationships between institutional actors and refugee policies and what are the implications of these interrelationships for service delivery to refugees in the U.S.; what does research tell us about the resettlement outcomes of refugees in the U.S. and what drives these outcomes; and finally, what are the points of intervention for social workers in the refugee.

Human Rights and Social Work: Opportunities for Policy and Practice

HMRT 47812
Yanilda Gonzalez, SSA
M: 2:00 - 4:50 pm
Cross list: SSAD 47812

This course will explore how international human rights law and principles provide a foundation for repairing the harms done by collective human rights trauma. The course focuses on Peace-building and Human Rights in an applied manner endeavoring a comprehensive approach to peace-building through humanitarian effort, human rights, and participation built on social work perspectives. In addition, it will examine the role social workers have both internationally and locally from policy to practice. The psychological impact and treatment of torture and trauma will be evaluated, particularly as experienced by people marginalized by the larger (privileged) society because of their gender, race and age. Various reparation and remedies used to recover from human rights trauma will be reviewed, as will, social work perspectives that can enhance such efforts. This course will apply an ecological perspective, examining how these efforts affect individuals and communities.

Workshop: Law and Philosophy

HMRT 51301
Martha C. Nussbaum, Law
M: 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Cross lists: GNSE 50101,RETH 51301,PHIL 51200,PLSC 51512,LAWS 61512

Substantial Writing Requirement. The theme for 2019-20 is "Migration and Citizenship." This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines. It admits approximately ten students. Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance. The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The course satisfies the Law School.

Winter Quarter 2020 | Human Rights Courses

Human Rights in World Civilizations II

HMRT 10200
Section 1: T/Th: 9:30 - 10:50 am, Instructor: TBA
Section 2: M/W: 11:00 am - 12:20 pm, Instructor: TBA
Section 3: T/Th: 3:30 - 4:50 pm, Instructor: TBA
Section 4: M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 pm, Instructor: TBA
Cross list: SOSC 24900

Course description: TBA

Note(s): This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. These courses must be taken in sequence; students must have taken HMRT 10100 to enroll in this course.

Health and Human Rights

HMRT 21400
Renslow Sherer, MD, (Infectious Diseases and Global Health, University of Chicago, Biological Sciences Division), Evon Lyon, MD, (Pozen Center)
Lecture: Tuesday, 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM
Discussion Sections 1- 4: Thursday, 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM
Cross lists: HMRT 31400, MEDC 60405

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?

Human Rights: Migrant, Refugee, Citizen

HMRT 24701
Susan Gzesh, (The College)
M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Cross lists: HMRT 34701, LACS 25303, LACS 35303

This course addresses how international human rights doctrines, conventions, and mechanisms can be used to understand the situation of the “alien” (or foreigner) who has left his or her country of origin to work, seek safe haven, or simply reside in another country. If human rights are universal, human rights are not lost merely by crossing a border. We use an interdisciplinary approach to study concepts of citizenship and statelessness, as well as the human rights of refugees and migratory workers.

Pain and Representation

HMRT 27312
Amy Krauss, Postdoctoral Lecturer, (Pozen Center)
Thursday: 2:00 - 4:50 PM

This course draws from anthropological approaches in dialogue with history, journalism, literature, philosophy, religion, film and visual arts to explore how people diversely experience and represent pain, injury and illness. We will query the genres through which suffering is named, and the different frameworks of causality that allocate responsibility, as well as determine what counts as an appropriate response. Throughout the course we pay special attention to the ways that law and medicine as “strong” cultural institutions make some aspects of suffering visible while erasing or silencing others. Our central questions are as follows: How do individuals and collectives make sense of loss and uncertainty? How do we witness the pain of others who are close to us and from far away? What are the relations and thresholds between biomedical and legal frameworks of illness and injury and other forms of suffering, healing and care in unequal social worlds?

Winter Quarter 2020 Cross Listed Courses 

Global-Local Politics

HMRT 20116
Terry N Clark, (Sociology)
M/W: 4:30 - 5:50 PM
Cross lists: SOCI 20116, PBPL 27900, SOCI 30116, HMRT 30116, LLSO 20116, GEOG 20116, GEOG 30116

Globalizing and local forces are generating a new politics in the United States and around the world. This course explores this new politics by mapping its emerging elements: the rise of social issues, ethno-religious and regional attachments, environmentalism, gender and life-style identity issues, new social movements, transformed political parties and organized groups, and new efforts to mobilize individual citizens.

Race & American Public Schools

HMRT 21000
Eve Ewing, (SSA)
T/Th: 3:30 - 4:50 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 21000, EDSO 21000

This course explores the fundamental role that race and racism have played in the structure, stratification, and social functioning of American public schools. Working within and between historical perspectives, contemporary policy challenges, theory, and empirical research, we will explore questions of purpose, identity, otherness, and justice. What can the histories of Black and Indigenous schooling reveal about the educational project of the nation? How does the notion of whiteness as property shape public presumptions about what makes a "good" school? Perhaps most fundamentally, can schools be engines for racial justice, and if so, how?

Philosophy and Philanthropy

HMRT 21499
Reynolds Barton Schultz, (Philosophy)
M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Cross lists: PHIL 21499, MAPH 31499, PLSC 21499

Perhaps it is better to give than to receive, but exactly how much giving ought one to engage in and to whom or what? Recent ethical and philosophical developments such as the effective altruism movement suggest that relatively affluent individuals are ethically bound to donate a very large percentage of their wealth to worthy causes-for example, saving as many lives as they possibly can, wherever in the world those lives may be. And charitable giving or philanthropy is not only a matter of individual giving, but also of giving by foundations, corporations, non-profits, non-governmental and various governmental agencies, and other organizational entities that play a very significant role in the modern world. How, for example, does an institution like the University of Chicago engage in and justify its philanthropic activities? Can one generalize about the various rationales for philanthropy, whether individual or institutional? Why do individuals or organizations engage in philanthropy, and do they do so well or badly, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no coherent reasons? This course will afford a broad, critical philosophical and historical overview of philanthropy, examining its various contexts and justifications, and contrasting charitable giving with other ethical demands, particularly the demands of justice. How do charity and justice relate to each other? Would charity even be needed in a fully just world?

Justice at Work

HMRT 22210
Ben Laurence, (Pozen Center)
T/Thu: 12:30 - 1:50 PM
Cross list: PHIL 21606

In this class we will explore questions of justice that arise in and around work. We will consider concepts such as exploitation and domination as they apply to workers under capitalism. We will explore the foundation of the right to strike, and the right to form a union. We will consider the merits of different justifications for workplace democracy and worker control. We will explore the role of domestic injustice in sustaining wage inequality for women, and consider the relationship of race to capitalism. We explore these topics through a variety of normative lenses, drawing on cutting edge work in the liberal, neo-republican, Marxist, feminist, and human rights traditions. 

Examining Historical Trauma: Intergen Resp. to Holocaust

HMRT 22812
Amelia Klein, (SSA)
Thu: 9:30 AM-12:20 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 62812, SSAD 22812, JWSC 22812

This course will explore the intergenerational impact of historical trauma through interactive lectures, discussions, readings and screenings, using the Holocaust as an in-depth case study. Seventy-two years later, the weight of remembering this traumatic event continues to reverberate. Traversing the landscapes of the USA, Europe and Australia, this course will provide a forum for contemplating the effects of the Holocaust on different generations within both Jewish and non-Jewish communities. Areas of discussion include child survivors of the Holocaust, literature produced by the Second Generation, Third Generation responses to Holocaust video-testimony, intergenerational remembrance in Poland, reconciliation between Jews and Germans and a study of sites of trauma, Holocaust museums, and memorials. Examining the different ways that survivors and descendants have chosen to work through and commemorate this traumatic history will enable students to attain a detailed understanding of the aftermath of the Holocaust and will provide a platform to explore the impact of historical trauma on other populations. Students will gain insight into the role historical trauma plays in understanding social and cultural problems and learn tools for creating awareness and change in these communities.

Immigration, Law and Society

HMRT 25003
Angela Garcia, (SSA)
M/W: 1:30 PM-02:50 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 25003, PBPL 25003, CRES 25003, SOCI 28079, LACS 25003

Law is everywhere within the social world. It shapes our everyday lives in countless ways by permitting, prohibiting, protecting and prosecuting native-born citizens and immigrants alike. This course reviews the major theoretical perspectives and sociological research on the relationship between law and society, with an empirical focus on immigrants in the United States, primarily from Mexico and Central America. To begin, we explore the permeation of law in everyday life, legal consciousness, and gap between "law on the books" and "law on the ground." The topic of immigration is introduced with readings on the socio-legal construction of immigration status, theories of international migration, and U.S. immigration law at the national and subnational levels. We continue to study the social impact of law on immigrants through the topics of liminal legality; children, families, and romantic partnerships; policing, profiling, and raids; detention and deportation; and immigrants' rights. This course adopts a "law in action" approach centered on the social, political, and cultural contexts of law as it relates to immigration and social change. It is designed to expose you to how social scientists study and think about law, and to give you the analytical skills to examine law, immigration, and social change relationally.

Punishment and Social Theory

HMRT 25004
Reuben Miller, (SSA)
M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 25004, PBPL 25004

How is the power to punish derived? How has the role of punishment been conceived? What do the practices of punishment produce? What do they tell us about ourselves? Are there alternatives? Taking up these questions, the course outlines major theories of punishment advanced by political philosophers, penologists and scholars who study the role of punishment in society, tracing the trajectory of our modern impulse to punish "wrong doers." We will interrogate the shifting terrain of crime control policy and attend to the ways that prison reformers, scholars, and activists have sought to bring about change. We examine the political economy, culture, and consequences of punishment through readings on the carceral state and conclude by raising new questions about punishment and its alternatives in the age of mass incarceration.

Documentary Production II

HMRT 25107
Judy Hoffman, (Cinema and Media Studies)
W/Fri: 10:30 AM - 1:20 PM
Cross lists: CMST 23931, HMRT 35107, ARTV 33931, ARTV 23931, CMST 33931, MAAD 23931
PQ: CMST 23930/33930, HMRT 25106, or ARTV 23930

This course focuses on the shaping and crafting of a nonfiction video. Students are expected to write a treatment detailing their project. Production techniques focus on the handheld camera versus tripod, interviewing and microphone placement, and lighting for the interview. Post-production covers editing techniques and distribution strategies. Students then screen final projects in a public space.

Social and Economic Rights in History

HMRT 29507
Ben Zdencanovic, (SSCD)
Wed: 1:30 PM- 4:20 PM
Cross lists: LLSO 29506, AMER 29506, HMRT 39507

This seminar charts the historical development of social and economic rights - the right to healthcare, to education, to social security, to an adequate standard of living - from the French Revolution to our own era of austerity and market fundamentalism. Our focus will not only be on how social and economic rights have been theorized, codified, and contested, but also how social and economic rights have transformed politics, markets, and legal regimes in practice. In the process, we will explore how struggles over the meaning of social and economic rights have shaped some of the most defining historical themes of the past two centuries: slavery and emancipation; wage labor and unionization; communism and the welfare state; decolonization and civil rights.

Cultura y Esclavitud en América Latina

HMRT 34401
Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, (Romance Languages and Literatures)
Fri: 3:00 PM - 5:50 PM
Cross lists: SPAN 34400, LACS 34400

La esclavitud en las Américas no fue únicamente un sistema de organización socio-económica fundamentado en el trabajo coactivo. Ella también conllevó la gestación de complejas y heterogéneas formas de producción cultural. En el contexto del moderno sistema de la plantación esclavista, esto implicó, en parte, una articulación intelectual y filosófica inédita de las relaciones entre poder, raza y cuerpo así como la producción de sofisticadas formas sincréticas de musicalidad y religiosidad populares y de numerosas representaciones artísticas y literarias en las que se simbolizaron las conflictivas y no pocas veces insólitas relaciones entre amos y esclavos. Enfocándonos especialmente en el caso cubano, en este seminario estudiaremos una serie de textos y artefactos visuales que nos permitirán abordar algunas de las problemáticas clave en la formación de las culturas de la esclavitud en la América Latina: los basamentos intelectuales del régimen (tanto en términos filosóficos como jurídicos) y las críticas de que fue objeto, la dialéctica de subjetividades entre amos/as y esclavos/as y las dinámicas perversas de deseo, género y raza que la constituyeron.

When Cultures Collide: Multiculturalism in Liberal Democracies

HMRT 35600
Richard A Shweder, (Comparative Human Development)
Wed: 9:30 AM - 12:20 PM
Cross lists: CHDV 45699, PSYC 45300, ANTH 45600, KNOW 45699, GNSE 45600

Coming to terms with diversity in an increasingly multicultural world has become one of the most pressing public policy projects for liberal democracies in the early 21st century. One way to come to terms with diversity is to try to understand the scope and limits of toleration for variety at different national sites where immigration from foreign lands has complicated the cultural landscape. This seminar examines a series of legal and moral questions about the proper response to norm conflict between mainstream populations and cultural minority groups (including old and new immigrants), with special reference to court cases that have arisen in the recent history of the United States.

Human Rights and Humanitarianism in the Modern World

HMRT 40207
Yan Slobodkin, (Stevanovich Institute)
Thu: 2:00 PM - 4:50 PM
Cross lists: KNOW 40207,CHSS 40207

The related concepts of human rights and humanitarianism form the basis of contemporary ethical and political thought. Acting in the name of "humanity" is seen as unequivocally noble, and very few of us would ever claim to be anti-humanitarian or anti-human rights. Yet the moral consensus surrounding these terms obscures a contested and often disturbing history. Rather than uncritically accepting a triumphalist story of the progressive victory of human rights and humanitarianism, this course will explore how these concepts were constructed over time, paying special attention to how they were used in practice, what kind of rhetorical work they accomplished, and whose interests they served. The course will consider the origins of modern concepts of humanity, rights, citizenship, and social responsibility during the enlightenment and trace how they developed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. We will study the role of human rights and humanitarianism in the transformative events and processes of modern history, including the rise of nation-states, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition, imperial expansion and decolonization, the world wars, and twentieth-century genocides. Students will leave the course with an understanding of how human rights and humanitarianism can be applied to their own research interests.

International Human Rights

HMRT 43262
Claudia Flores, (Law School)
M/W/Th: 09:45 AM - 10:50 AM
Cross list: LAWS 43262

This course is an introduction to international human rights law, covering the major instruments and institutions that operate on the international plane. It includes discussion of the conceptual underpinnings of human rights, the structure of the United Nations System, the major international treaties, regional human rights machinery, and the interplay of national and international systems in enforcing human rights. There are no prerequisites. Grading will be on the basis of a take-home exam at the end of the quarter. Students who wish to write, in lieu of the exam, a paper sufficient to satisfy the substantial writing requirement, may do so upon approval of the topic in advance. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Spring Quarter 2020 | Human Rights Courses

Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations

HMRT 21002
Ben Laurence, (Pozen Center)
Lecture: M/W: 3:00 - 4:20 PM
Discussion Sections 1-6: Friday, Time: TBD, Discussion Section 7: To Be Arranged
Cross lists: HMRT 31002, PHIL 21002, PHIL 31002, HIST 29319, HIST 39319, LLSO 21002, INRE 31602, MAPH 42002

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.

Sovereign Rights: Decolonization and the Cold War in Image and Word

HMRT 23406
Eilin Rafael Pérez, Graduate Lecturer, (History)
T/Th: 9:30 - 10:50 AM
Cross lists: GLST 24406, CRES 21306

This course explores two historical processes often discussed in isolation: decolonization and the Cold War. Through our particular emphasis on solidarity movements arising from the global South, we consider a point in time during which shouts for political and economic equality among nations envisioned potential futures that would alter the global landscape. What transformed perceptions of the ‘Third World’ from a loose coalition of governments that sought to upend contemporary global structures, into an amorphous constitution of states perpetually in need of humanitarian aid? Over the course of the quarter we will explore these trajectories through a mixture of primary documents and visual sources, contextualized by both foundational historical scholarship and more recentinterventions. Short writing assignments, library and museum visits, and class discussions will culminate in an opportunity for students to use course themes to design their own exhibit according to their own interests.

Challenging Transitional Justice

HMRT 25503
Alejandra Azuero, Graduate Lecturer, (Anthropology), Rachel Howard, (Anthropology)
M/W, 1:30 - 2:50 PM
Cross lists: ANTH 25265

This course investigates transitional justice (TJ) as one of the dominant discourses of accountability of our times; one that is often understood as an exceptional regime of accountability that is relevant over there (far from the North-Atlantic) in places lacking peace, democracy or order. In contrast, this course will offer conceptual and critical tools to analyze – and problematize – TJ as a project that is essential to the reconfiguration of the paradigm of liberal justice in the 21st century.

Reproductive Rights as Human Rights

HMRT 27205
Amy Krauss, Postdoctoral Lecturer, (Pozen Center)
Thu: 2:00 - 4:50 PM
Cross lists: HMRT 37205, GNSE 27205, GNSE 37205, HLTH 27205

This course examines human rights approaches to reproductive health and justice with critical grounding in ethnographic case studies. We will begin by surveying major debates and tactics of feminist movements in North and South Americas, comparing visions of reproductive rights based on ideals of liberal individualism and private property with traditions of collective claims for social and economic rights. Our case studies include the Zika epidemic in Brazil, immigration and reproductive health care access in the United States, the shackling of pregnant women in U.S. prisons, the politics of sterilization and birth control in Puerto Rico, and the legalization of abortion in Mexico City. Hearing from guest speakers who work as lawyers, healthcare practitioners, activists and community organizers, we will consider reproductive rights as human rights in a field of contestation that involves diverse actors, state interests, and social movement histories.

Mixed Enrollment: Narrating Social Change

HMRT 24205
Alice Kim, Pozen Center
Cathy Cohen, Political Science 
Fri: 10:30 AM - 1:15 PM (Stateville Correctional Center)

This course is a mixed enrollment course which brings outside UChicago students and incarcerated students together for a quarter of learning, dialogue and knowledge-building across the prison wall. We will examine and analyze narratives in multiple mediums (memoir, poetry, film, art, public memorial, political campaigns, and protest) to explore the role of narrative in social change. How do stories of transformation get documented, told and historicized? What are the dangers of a single story and how can dominant narratives be disrupted? What tools and methods can be deployed to surface previously marginalized lived experiences and truths? How have individuals and communities developed platforms to tell their stories and shape new futures? 

This is the first time a mixed enrollment course is being offered to UChicago students. Eight UChicago students will be selected for enrollment in the course. The class will be held on Fridays, April 3 to June 5, 10:30am to 1:15pm, at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois (approximately 40 miles from Hyde Park). This course will require a near full day commitment, from approximately 7:45am to 3:30pm including transportation which will be provided. 

Eligibility: Undergraduate students who have taken at least two classes in Human Rights and/or Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies are eligible to apply for this course.

The course is not yet listed in the course catalog; a special application is required in advance of Spring Quarter registration. Due to the unique nature of the course, we are conducting an early application process for approval to enroll.

Application Deadline: Monday, January 27, 4PM. 

Spring Quarter 2020 | Cross listed Human Rights Courses

Chicago Film History

HMRT 25104
Judy Hoffman, Cinema and Media Studies
T/Th: 11:00 AM - 12: 20 PM
Cross lists: CMST 21801, CMST 31801, ARTV 26750, ARTV 36750, HMRT 21504, MAAD 18801

This course will screen and discuss films made mostly by Chicagoans, concentrating on the period after WWII, until 1980 when Hollywood began using Chicago as a location. By examining various genres, including those not normally interrogated by academics, such as educational and industrial films, we will consider whether there is a Chicago style of filmmaking. Technological advances that enabled both film and video to escape the restrictions of the studio and go hand-held, into city streets and homes, will be discussed. If there is a Chicago style of filmmaking, one must look at the landscape of the city-the design, the politics, the cultures and labor of its people and how they live their lives. The protagonists and villains of Chicago stories are the politicians and community organizers, our locations are the neighborhoods, and the set designers are Mies Van Der Rohe and the Chicago Housing Authority.

Anti-Corruption Politics in Latin America

HMRT 26623
Alejandro Azuero, Graduate Lecturer, Anthropology
T/Th: 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
Cross lists: LACS 26623, GLST 26623, ANTH 23071

Calls for corporate accountability from civil society and widespread public anxieties concerning large scale corporate corruption scandals have become salient modes of articulating questions of power in contemporary Latin America & the Caribbean. This trend, while not homogeneous or new, denounces the relation between two modes of power -- state and corporate -- considered to be at the heart of the region's democracies. What is the relation between today's war against corruption and ongoing transformations of corporate and financial power? What has been the effect of anti-corruption discourse over horizons for emancipatory politics - such as Human Rights praxis? This course critically examines anti-corruption politics as constituting one of the region's most salient frameworks of accountability in the present. Crucially, we will situate it in relation to Latin America's robust trajectory of critiquing power through the analysis of corporate power as well as the mobilization of Human Rights discourse.

Community Organizing

HMRT 34950
Jane Ramsey, SSA
Th: 2:00 - 4:50 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 48112, SSAD 281112

This is a class about community organizing and how organizing brings about collective action. Through analysis of both historical and contemporary community organizing efforts, students will learn how organizing mobilizes people to gain power and influence over public policy and decision-making that directly impact them. Students will be introduced to different conceptual models of organizing, as well as how these models employ different theories of social change. The course emphasizes the "nuts-and-bolts" of organizing, ranging from strategic vision formulation to campaign development to one-on-one engagement. Students will have the opportunity to learn, discuss, and employ these different organizing skills and techniques through in-class exercises and group projects.

Human Rights and Social Work: Opportunities for Policy and Practice

HMRT 47812
Jessica Villasenor, Sociology
Fri: 9:20 AM - 12:20 PM
Cross lists: SSAD 47812

This course will explore how international human rights law and principles provide a foundation for repairing the harms done by collective human rights trauma. The course focuses on Peace-building and Human Rights in an applied manner endeavoring a comprehensive approach to peace-building through humanitarian effort, human rights, and participation built on social work perspectives. In addition, it will examine the role social workers have both internationally and locally from policy to practice. The psychological impact and treatment of torture and trauma will be evaluated, particularly as experienced by people marginalized by the larger (privileged) society because of their gender, race and age. Various reparation and remedies used to recover from human rights trauma will be reviewed, as will, social work perspectives that can enhance such efforts. This course will apply an ecological perspective, examining how these efforts affect individuals and communities.

Violence, Trauma, Repair

HMRT 50005
Natacha Nsabimana, Anthropology, Sonali Thakkar, English
T: 11:00 AM - 1:50 PM
Cross lists: CDIN 56675, ANTH 52510, CRES 56675, ENGL 56675

This course offers an interdisciplinary encounter with three concepts of abiding interest to scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences: violence, trauma, and repair. We begin with theoretical considerations about violence and its role in the founding of new political orders. The second part tackles the question of trauma, a concept that has achieved a remarkable prominence across many disciplines. But this ascendance also brought with it a number of critiques, among them that the concept is often deployed in apolitical and romanticized terms. We take on these critiques by bringing into conversation works from varying contexts: the Rwandan genocide, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust and Apartheid South Africa.The final part focuses on the consequences of violent acts and notions of repair formulated in the language of trauma, suffering and human rights. We ask: What is the operating rationale in this line of thinking about the contemporary world? How has it emerged, and through what kinds of institutions, interventions and techniques does it operate and extend its power across the globe?

Workshop: Law and Philosophy

HMRT 51301
Daniel Guillery, Law, Martha Nussbaum, Law
M: 4:00 - 6:00 PM
Cross lists: GNSE 50101, RETH 513

The theme for 2019-20 is "Migration and Citizenship." Confirmed speakeres as of 1/19 include David Miller, Joseph Carens, Ayelet Shachar, Adam Hosein, Adam Cox, Aziz Huq, and Seyla Benhabib, who will also be the Dewey Lecturer on January 15. This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines. It admits approximately ten students. Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance. The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The course satisfies the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement. Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit. Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors. They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail by September 20. Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Political Theory and law students do not need permission.