Sociology and Criminology

The Sociology of Human Rights

Module code: L3075B
Level 5
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

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?


Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of human rights and their evolution.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of case studies of human rights violations
  • Apply the theoretical concepts/frameworks covered in the module to empirical examples, in order to critically analyse these examples.
  • Critically assess the competing arguments that consider the contemporary salience of human rights regimes.