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

This module will explore the historical evolution of human rights, contemporary controversies about substantive issues and the ongoing validity of human rights themselves. It will proceed from an outline of the rise of the human rights regime – through a range of cases studies around gender, citizenship and migration, torture, the death penalty, development and corporate abuses of human rights - to an analysis of whether we now live in a post-human rights world and the implications for human rights in a post-human era. It will draw on a variety of sources, including literature, news media and social media. It will ask students to consider crucial questions such as whether human rights are inherently Euro-centric and entangled with the colonial era still manifest through institutions such as the ICC or whether it is possible to transcend their history and to draw on non-European human rights epistemologies. In so doing, the module will draw extensively on international examples of human rights institutions and violations – including the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay and the death penalty in the US as well as countries such as Saudi Arabia and the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Europe. It will ask whether the crisis of human rights, in their judicial form, can 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.