Approaches to Human Rights

Seminar: Approaches to Human Rights

About the Course:

Approaches to Human Rights is a seminar for graduate students with interest in the study of law, religion, and society. It is a reading course; it is interdisciplinary, and it is intensive. Students must be prepared to read the assigned materials in time, lead class discussions, and write a substantive research paper about a relevant topic. All students must read the assigned books and chapters, however, each week, one or two students will be selected to summarize the week’s reading assignments, identify the main thesis of the work, determine the disciplinary approach (or approaches) employed by the authors; and moderate the ensuing discussion. In a sense, while this course is primarily a learning experience, it is also a training opportunity for future teachers and professionals.
We will discuss the various theoretical approaches to human rights issues and consider the ways the theories apply in actual cases from the recent history or current events. To be sure, we will discuss the various theories from a number of disciplinary perspectives including, but not limited to, philosophic/analytic, normative/legal, and descriptive/historic approaches. Specifically, we will discuss the relevance of current events to human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, and political and social order in the Islamic world.
Undergraduate students may enroll in this course but must consult the Instructor before or during the first week of the semester.
In addition to the textbooks below, there will be additional reading materials to be made available to students online. Students are expected to make use of the World Wide Web and to read current events relevant to the course's theme as they become available in-print or on the Internet.

Which Rights Should Be Universal?, by William Talbott
The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries, Michael J. Perry
The Politics of Justice and Human Rights: Southeast Asia and Universalist Theory (Cambridge Asia-Pacific Studies), by Anthony J. Langlois
Reading Packet (Selection of book chapters and articles)
 Other Recommended Texts:
Proselytization and Communal Self-Determination in Africa, An-Na`im
The Power of Human Rights, Edited by Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp, Kathryn Sikkink
Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, by Jack Donnelly
Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts, by Michael J. Perry
Inventing Human Rights: A History, by Lynn Hunt
International Human Rights in Context, by Steiner et al
1. Class Participation: Each student will lead at least one class discussion.
2. Homework Assignments:  There will be weekly reading assignments. Students must read assigned materials before each class session in order to participate and benefit from the lecture presentations.
3. Research Papers: A final substantive research paper—topic, scope, and timeline to be decided in a meeting with Instructor. Every week, students must write a one-page review/summery of the reading assignments; this will serve as an outline for their participation in class, then they must turn it in at the end of each class session.