International Studies | Human Rights & Social Movements: International Perspective
I204 | 14421 | Rathbun, B


This class is an introduction to the topic of human rights, the
movements to promote them and the forces arrayed against them, both
past and present. We will examine many of the key issues of human
rights: how they are defined, how respect for them is ensured, and
what they are threatened by. The class will not only consider
contemporary dilemmas in human rights, like humanitarian
intervention, but also historical questions such as how we explain
progressive steps like the end of the slave trade and the creation
of the laws of war. A recurrent theme will be how human rights
affect politics differently at different times in history and in
different geopolitical contexts. Our concerns will be both empirical
and normative. We want to understand how human rights have evolved
over time, where they have been respected, where they have been
violated and why. But we also want to grapple with ethical questions
such as how much America’s foreign policy should concern itself with
human rights, or whether there is a universal definition of what
rights to which all individuals are entitled. You and your
classmates will serve as advocates for human rights, putting
together transnational campaigns on historical and contemporary
human rights issues.