Human Rights and the Politics of Culture (824M9)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Autumn teaching

The module will introduce you to debates in 'the politics of difference' as they relate to human rights. We begin by examining the genealogy of the concept of culture in the 20th century and look at the diverse political uses to which it has been put, from being part of the discourse of the European far-right to granting greater rights for minorities that were previously politically marginalised. We consider the cultural relativist challenge to universal human rights which asserts the distinctiveness of each 'culture' and that universal human rights instruments are, therefore, inappropriate. We then assess the view that globalisation in general, and especially the globalisation of a human rights discourse, means that relativist views of societal distinctiveness no longer hold in an increasingly interconnected world. Subsequent weeks are concerned with specific instances of rights and difference, including minority rights, indigenous rights and women's human rights. We conclude by returning to the liberal tradition to ask whether or not revised forms of liberalism ('multiculturalism') can provide the answer to the problem of difference in modern societies.


100%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2021/22. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. However, we are constantly looking to improve and enhance our courses. There may be changes to modules in response to student demand or feedback, changes to staff expertise or updates to our curriculum. We may also need to make changes in response to COVID-19. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.