The Sociology of Human Rights (L3075B)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

You explore the evolution, contemporary controversies and ongoing validity of human rights.

Through a range of cases studies around gender, citizenship and migration, torture, the death penalty, development and corporate abuses of human rights, we will:

  • outline of the rise of the human rights regime
  • analyse whether we now live in a post-human rights world
  • consider the implications for human rights in a post-human era.

We’ll draw on international examples of human rights institutions and violations, including torture in Guantanamo Bay, the death penalty in the US and countries such as Saudi Arabia, and the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Europe.

We use a variety of sources, including literature, news media and social media. You’ll consider questions such as:

  • are human rights are inherently Euro-centric and still entangled with the colonial era?
  • is it possible to transcend their history and to draw on non-European human rights epistemologies?
  • can the crisis of human rights, in their judicial form, be overcome by a new politics of rights based on grass-roots human rights organisations and NGOs?



50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: