This course aims to provide students with an overview of the way human rights laws and institutions have evolved and the mobilization of human rights law from below. In the first half of the class we will examine the legal institutions and human rights regimes around the world, both global and regional. In the second half, we will take a bottom-up view by examining how human rights become part of contentious politics. Special attention will be given to how human rights law transform with mobilization from below and how it is used to contest, challenge and change hierarchical power relationships. The case studies from the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and the US aim at placing human rights concerns in a broader sociopolitical context. We will consider both how human rights law and institutions become a resource for addressing grave injustices and how access to power and resources limit the ability to mobilize human rights.
The examination of these topics should allow us to pose broader questions about the meaning of human rights in a globalized world, the efficacy of international instruments for rights enforcement and the uses and limitations of human rights in addressing social justice concerns. Students taking the course will acquire an enhanced understanding of the role in human rights politics played by the United Nations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, customary international law, treaty law, regional courts, corporations, activists, and resistance movements.
All students are expected to attend class meetings, complete all assigned readings, and participate actively in discussions in class. The course grade will be assessed by class participation, pop quizzes, response papers, and a final presentation.