Document Type

Undergraduate Syllabus


Spring 2011



Course Number

DIPL 4106

Course Description

What do we mean when we say that something is a “human right”? Are human rights “given”? By whom or what? If they are inherent in the fact of being human, does this mean they are universal? If they are universal, do they invariably take precedence over conflicting social norms?

This course will examine the principle instruments (treaties, declarations, constitutions, national laws) and enforcement mechanisms of human rights. We will read the major treaties and conventions and look at how they are (or are not) being enforced. Students will learn the philosophies underlying contemporary human rights and their roots in the Western liberal tradition and the different theoretical and practical issues related to the study and advocacy of human rights. Students will also examine the major controversies about human rights discourse, including its supposed ethnocentrism. Students should leave the course with an understanding of the importance of human rights in the modern world and of the complexities and contradictions that surround the idea of human rights.