This course first presents some basic readings in human rights-providing the historical background and documents we need to understand modern human rights work from an historical and legal angle. But as even legal scholars of human rights attest, human rights discourse is imperfect, variable, and open to contestation-the ideals that undergird it are put into tension when faced with obdurate local realities. One major criticism of human rights is that these rights are based on a very particular western liberal philosophical tradition that is poorly suited to other cultures. Furthermore, many who work in human rights feel that there is an over-emphasis on the legal framework; these critics say that the humanities, and specifically literature, offer an invaluable perspective with which to view a richer, more complex situation. We will read a number of literary works from around the world that explore the contradictions and complexities of the principles that form the foundation of our sense of human rights. Readings include basic texts; essays on human rights, and six literary works. Students are responsible for one midterm assessment, reflection piece, and one final essay.
- This course is offered as part of the Summer Intensive in Human Rights, and qualifies toward the Certificate of Completion in Human Rights.