Human Rights Activism
(Also Political Science 24.) This course is intended to give students a sense of the challenges and satisfactions involved in the practice of human rights work as well as a critical sense of how the discourses calling it forth developed and continue to evolve. We intend to provide specific historical and cultural context to selected areas in which human rights abuses of women and men have occurred, and to explore how differing traditions facilitate and inhibit activism within these areas. The semester will begin by exploring the historical growth of human rights discourse in Europe and the United States, culminating in the emergence of the post-World War II Universal Declaration. We will then turn to the proliferation of these discourses since the 1970s, including the growing importance of non-governmental organizations, many of them internationally based, the use of human rights discourse by a wide range of groups, and expanding meanings of human rights including new conceptions of women's human rights. The third part of the course will explore criticisms of human rights discourses, particularly the charge that for all their claims to universalism, these discourses reflect the values of European Enlightenment traditions which are inimical to conceptions of rights and justice that are grounded in culture and religion. Throughout the course, rights' workers will discuss their own experiences, abroad and in the U.S., and reflect on the relationship between their work and formal human rights discourse. Second semester. Professors Basu and Saxton.