Fall 2019  |  SOC 8171 Section 001: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Human Rights (33160)

Class Component:
3 Credits
Grading Basis:
Student Option
Instructor Consent:
No Special Consent Required
Instruction Mode:
In Person Term Based
Times and Locations:
Regular Academic Session
09/03/2019 - 12/11/2019
Thu 02:30PM - 05:15PM
UMTC, West Bank
Social Sciences Building 1114
Enrollment Status:
Open (12 of 15 seats filled)
Also Offered:
Course Catalog Description:
This seminar will approach human rights issues from a variety of "disciplinary" perspectives, including history, the arts, law, the social sciences, and praxis. Empirical work in the social sciences will receive somewhat greater emphasis. One key focus will be the unique advantages (and disadvantages) of the different perspectives and fruitful ways to combine them to strengthen action that improves human rights situations in countries around the world, including the United States. prereq: Grad student or instr consent
Class Notes:
Click for more detailed course information: http://classinfo.umn.edu/?asalamha+SOC8171+Fall2019
Class Description:
Why might an individual torture another? Why might genocide emerge? How do people become slaves today? Despite nations worldwide signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, genocide, torture, slavery, economic destitution, and mass displacement persist. Why?

In the course, we discuss the complex social forces that impede human rights, with an interest in developing insights about possible strategies to curb widespread human rights violations. We explore (state) policy-focused, (judicial) law-focused, and individual-focused strategies. Among the questions we ask is "why do nations obey human rights, yet in other instances, they flagrantly defy them?" And, we also ask, "Can human rights accommodate cultural norms and values?"

Even as human rights violations continue, social movements and activist actions for human rights exist. We discuss the complex and unknown ways in which social change occurs in difficult global circumstances. We examine the varieties of activism in the history of human rights: we turn to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, to Gandhi's Salt March, and William Wilberforce's calls to abolish slavery as a member of the British Parliament. We discuss some of the ways in which human rights and human rights activism produce cultural change.

Overall, when discussing human rights, we explore the sociological - the social forces and norms that may contribute to human rights violations and their diminishment - and the political - the global political institutions that validate and diffuse human rights worldwide - and the philosophical - that enable us to examine the complex and various meanings of human rights - but also the psychological - the ways in which human rights partake in stories that involve human vulnerability, collective sacrifice, and inspirational courage.
Who Should Take This Class?:
Any student who is interested in discussing human rights, with a focus on questions of wide-scale violence against individuals and groups. This includes the topics of genocide, torture, economic destitution, and the displacement of peoples worldwide.

Students interested in the law, policy, ethics, global politics, and the sociology and psychology of violence (and other related areas) may find this course helpful.

The course is an opportunity for extended discussion and reflection. The course includes an experiential component - a simulation of the United Nations Security Council - as a way to bring themes in the course together, examine how experience differs from perceived international practice, and as a way to trigger further discussion.
Learning Objectives:
Explore a human rights problem.
Analyze the multiple challenges in a particular human rights context.
Discuss the complex and varying meanings of human rights.
50% Participation (includes attendance, individual in-class discussion of readings, and general participation)
25% Simulation of the United Nations Security Council
25% Reflections Paper on the Simulation

*This grading scheme may change. Furthermore, the instructor intends to consult with students in the beginning of the course.
Exam Format:
There is No exam in the course.
Class Format:
The course is discussion-based. While there is lecturing, students are asked to reflect, discuss, and share their thoughts about the issues and questions of the course.
20-50 Pages of Reading per Week (excluding the last weeks when conducting the simulation)
1 Simulation
1 Reflections Paper
Instructor Supplied Information Last Updated:
21 August 2019

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