Are human rights still relevant in promoting social justice and freedom in the 21st Century? Human rights law and advocacy have been central to international politics since the end of World War II. However, recent rises in authoritarianism and anti-liberal regimes have raised new questions on whether the human rights framework is still capable of addressing injustices in the modern world. This course introduces students to the law and practice of human rights as well as the challenges of enforcing rights in an international environment that has grown increasingly hostile to principles of human dignity and personal freedom.
Students review the philosophical foundations of human rights and then examine human rights from two perspectives. First, the legal perspective introduces them to basic principles and rules of international law and the main international organizations and mechanisms designed for promoting and enforcing human rights. Second, they adopt the role of social scientist. We debate evidence on the effectiveness of human rights law and discuss challenges of enforcing rights in an international system in which states are not accountable to a higher authority.
Students apply their new knowledge to the problems facing human rights today. Topics may include cultural relativist critiques of human rights as a Western, neo-colonialist institution, challenges from new technologies in state surveillance and autonomous weapons, and existential threats to human populations through climate change and environmental damage. The course includes asynchronous work, which students are expected to complete between class sessions.
HUMN0101 | Call Number: 22345 | View this listing on the Directory of Courses
Michelle Chun is a political and legal theorist whose research focuses on democratic theory, American pragmatism, and jurisprudence. She also maintains research interests in American constitutional law and civil liberties, early modern liberalism and epistemology, and 20th Century continental political theory. She is currently revising her dissertation, "John Dewey and the Democratic Life of the Law," for publication. Michelle received her PhD in political science from Columbia, where she also completed an MA, MPhil, and a JD as a dual degree candidate; she holds an undergraduate degree in social studies from Harvard University.