Approaches to Human Rights


 Syllabus (Abbreviated)



About the Course:

Approaches to Human Rights is a seminar for graduate students with interest in the study of law, history, politics, philosophy, economics, religion, and culture. In this class, we engage with the various theoretical approaches to the human rights discourse and analyze the connections between theory and practice.

We investigate a number of ideas and events that influenced the discourse and institutions of human rights since Enlightenment and study cases and current events involving women’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and other social groups’ rights across civilizations and throughout history.

Undergraduate students may enroll in this course with Instructor’s permission.



 See also the Human Rights Biblio page.


  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, each student must write a short (1 page preferred but 2 when necessary) review/summery of the reading assignments; this will serve as an outline for the participation in class, then students must turn it in at the end of each class session.

Law students may discuss the option of a writing credit in lieu of the research paper assigned for everyone else.


Grades will be based on the following distribution:

  • Class participation and weekly papers: 60%
  • Research Paper and exams 40%


  • Note about “Writing Credit” option:

Students taking this course with the “writing credit” option submit a 40-page paper (minimum excluding footnotes and end matter; you will receive faculty comment on a penultimate draft before the final draft is submitted for grading and credit.