Course 2017-2018 a.y.



Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 31
BIG (6 credits - I sem. - OBS  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Course Objectives

  • Know the content of the most important documents in the human rights regime.
  • Understand the historical path that led to the writing of these documents.
  • Develop an informed opinion on the normative foundations of these documents.
  • Become more aware of one’s own beliefs on human rights.
  • Develop an enduring intellectual and political interest in the concept, as an advocate or a critic (or both).
  • In general, discuss, listen, write, and speak in an informed manner.

Course Content Summary

This course aims at understanding human rights as embedded in specific historical circumstances, and looks at their codification in international law as the product of heated political debates.

In order to do so, it articulates itself in three learning units.

In the first one, historical, we trace the genealogy of the concept paying particular attention to its continuity or discontinuity with respect to the notion of natural law, and we focus on the birth of the “human rights regime.”

In the second, we look at the embodiment of the regime in the constitution and work of the International Criminal Court, and in the third we look at critical readings of human rights as an instrument for “Western hegemony.”

Detailed Description of Assessment Methods

For attending students

80%+ attendance.

  • First Partial Exam (40%).
  • Second Partial exam (40%) (or final exam only 80%).
  • Students’ engagement with the class (10%). 
  • Advocacy Project (10%).

For non attending students

  • Final Exam.


  • Michael IGNATIEFF, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Princeton University Press 2001.
  • L. HUNT, Inventing Human Rights, Norton, 2007, pp. 324-377.
  • E. ROOSVELT, The Promise of Human Rights, Foreign Affairs, April 1948.
  • C. DOUZINAS, Are Human Rights Universal? and What are Human Rights?
  • S. MOYN, Human Rights in History.
  • A. SEN, Asian Values and Human Rights.
  • The Charter of the United Nations,
  • M.A. GLENDON, A World Made New, 2001.
  • D.L. DELAET, The Global Struggle for Human Rights, 2006.
  • The Power of Shame, The Economist, 1998, Available at
  • Human Rights: Opposing Viewpoints, 2003 [1999].
  • M. MUTUA, Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights, Harvard International Law Journal, 2001, Vol.42, pp.20145.
  • The Politics of Human Rights and Righting Wrongs, The Economist, 2001, and
  • C. BUNCH, Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Toward a Re-Vision of Human Rights Human Rights Quarterly, 1990, 12:4, , pp.486-498.
  • M. IGNATIEFF, No Exceptions? The U.S. Pick and Chose Approach to Human Rights Human Rights in The World Community, 2006.
  • M. BARNETT, Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanism, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2011.
  • R.P. CLAUDE, What do Human Rights NGOs Do? in Human Rights in The World Community, 2006.
  • NGOs: Sins of the Secular Missionaries, The Economist, 2000.
  • P. FARMER, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 2003.
  • B. LEEBAW, The Politics of Impartial Activism: Humanitarianism and Human Rights Perspective on Politics, Vol.5 No. 2, 2007, pp. 223-239.
Exam textbooks & Online Articles (check availability at the Library)


Last change 19/04/2017 14:11