Approaches to Human Rights

Approaches to Human Rights

 Syllabus (Abbreviated)



About the Course:

Approaches to Human Rights is a seminar for graduate students. Students will engage with historical events, philosophical narratives, legal cases, institutional reports, lived experiences, and theoretical works to study the origins, functions, and history of the discourse on human rights. Students will be guided to apply a systems thinking framework to events involving the treatment of women, indigenous peoples, disabled persons, racial and ethnic groups, and other disempowered social groups across cultures and throughout history; and examine the writings that attempted to explain key historical events and ideas relevant to human rights.

Approaches to Human Rights is a seminar for graduate students with background in the study of law, history, politics, philosophy, economics, anthropology, and sociology with focus on the narratives interpreted and mediated events related to human rights in both Islamic and Western cultures. Students will learn about and analyze the origins and evolution of the institutions of human rights and the formal and informal instruments and systems that have informed and impacted human rights claims throughout history and across cultures.

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, weekly essays, peer-reviews: 60%
  • Bookreviews, research papers, and/or 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.


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