Course descriptions

HR 200 Introduction to Human Rights (Fall and Spring semesters)

What are human rights, and what is the meaning and impact of their current prominence? How are human rights formulated and how can they be enforced? This course will address these questions by exploring human rights in theory and in practice. It will examine the historical and philosophical origins of contemporary human rights standards, the uses and limitations of the international human rights treaty system, and the relationship between international human rights obligations and domestic human rights enforcement.

HR 250 Human Rights Internship (All semesters)

An internship with a nongovernmental organization or government agency working on human rights issues is an opportunity to assist victims of human rights abuses, carry out human rights research, and see first-hand how human rights concerns influence political, economic, and/or social policy. Internships are available with organizations working on a wide variety of human rights topics, including immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and the right to free expression.

HR 260 Human Rights Internship Seminar (Fall semesters)

Designed for students who have completed a human rights internship, this seminar is typically limited to students who are pursuing a Certificate in Human Rights. Students examine how human rights organizations approach the practice of human rights research and advocacy. It is an in-depth study of the work of NGOs, including through field visits. The seminar is required of all students pursuing the Certificate in Human Rights, and may occasionally be open to students pursuing the Minor, with permission of the instructor.

HR 350 Human Rights Capstone Seminar (Spring semesters)

This seminar, limited to students who are pursuing a Certificate in Human Rights, examines how human rights organizations approach the practice of human rights research and advocacy.  Designed for students who have completed a human rights internship, or who are currently undertaking an internship, the course explores the role of human rights organizations —- both governmental and non-governmental —- in promoting human rights.  Students will read current scholarship, both critical and approving, analyze the history, goals, politics and methods of human rights organizations, and discuss their own experiences as interns.  They will consider the constraints under which human rights organizations operate, the impact of political and financial pressures, and the relationship between human rights theory and human rights practice.


Note: Below is an early preview of HRP courses planned for Fall 2016. Check back on the site for updated descriptions and other details prior to May 4 registration.

HR 220.01 Application of International Human Rights Norms in the U.S.

Tuesdays, 5:35 PM – 8:25 PM     Room: RH 204

Instructor: Katherine Caldwell, Human Rights Lawyer

This course will pair close scrutiny of the text and legal interpretations of the International Bill of Human Rights with case studies and simulations structured to introduce students to the opportunities for and challenges to implementation in the United States. Particular attention will be paid to economic and social rights, such as health, housing, education, and workers’ rights, and how these rights intersect with civil and political rights in areas such as the criminal justice and immigration.

HR 220.02 Human Rights in Russia and the Former Soviet States 

Mondays/Thursdays 11:10 AM – 12:25 PM     Room: RH 204

Instructor: Cassandra Cavanaugh, PhD in Russian History from Columbia University

Though a founding member of the United Nations with a permanent seat on the Security Council, Russia’s government today articulates a vision of state-society relations that is often sharply at odds with individual rights and internationally guaranteed freedoms. This course will examine how this situation came about, how individuals have stood in opposition to state encroachments on these rights, and how Russia interacts with international rights-protecting institutions.                                            

HR 220.03 Contemporary Questions in Religion and Human Rights

Thursdays, 1:10 PM – 4:00 PM     Room: RH 304

Instructor: Joseph Chuman, Columbia PhD in Religion, and Ethical Culture Society Leader

Religion will occupy an increasingly salient role in the social and political life of nations during the course of the 21st century. The course examines the relationship of religion to human rights from several standpoints, including religion’s role in abetting intolerance, religious minorities as victims of human rights violations, and religion as a framer of human rights ideals which inspire action.

HR 320.01 Human Rights and Conflict in Africa

Tuesdays, 4:10 PM – 7:00 PM     Room: RH 304

Co-Instructors: Jehanne Henry, Senior Researcher, Africa Division, HRW, and Ralph Mamiya, Protection of Civilians Policy Adviser, UN

This course will examine approaches to protecting human rights and dignity in conflict situations in Africa, including by means of international intervention, UN peacekeeping forces, and investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court. It will examine the obstacles to protecting rights, such as the political dynamics of the UN Security Council.

HR 320.02 The History of Human Rights: A View From Latin America

Tuesdays, 1:10 PM – 4:00 PM     Room: RH 304

Instructor: Deborah Sharnak, PhD Candidate in Latin American History, UW, Madison

This course studies this history and development of civil and political rights in the Latin American region in response to military repression in the 1970s and 1980s; the explosion of social and economic rights activism at the end of the 20th century; and the tension between “universal” rights and local, regional, and cultural rights.