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Master's in Liberal Studies/ Fall 2001
W 6:20-9:00 p.m.
537-721 Special Topics in Liberal Studies
"Human Rights: Making Rights Claims and Global Justice"


From the battles over global civil, economic and social rights in the streets of Seattle and Prague and the sweatshops of New York City and Ho Chi Minh City to the quest for transnational justice in the international tribunals established in the wake of genocide in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, international human rights have become a central element of today's increasingly globalized world. This course aims to provide a sustained, interdisciplinary examination of the ways in which peoples, state, and, increasingly, transnational actors make human rights claims for individual and collective justice and welfare. We will begin by exploring the question of whether there is a higher law, beyond the local or the national, upon which claims for human rights can be based, combining a close reading of Sophocles' classic evocation of this question in Antihone with selections from the legal briefs produced in the effort last year to bring General Augusto Pinochet to justice in Spain for "crimes against humanity" he committed in Chile.

From there, we will turn to a philosophical and historical consideration of how and why human rights claims have been made: How are civil, political, economic, social, sexual and cultural rights claims articulated? What are the justifying grounds upon which claims for these rights are based? Are one or another of these bundles of rights universal terms or are they culturally specific? Along with readings from Confucius, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxembourg and several cultural anthropologists, we will consider two critical historical cases involving searching debates over the meaning and significance of articulating human rights norms, the 18th century French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the 20th century United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A third section of the course will explore cultural representations of human rights claims, with a particular focus on art, film, music and literature. In part we will consider these representational forms as modes of persuasion, including such works as Beethoven's opera Fidelio, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and paintings by Leon Golub and Latin American muralists. But we will also consider these imaginative forms as modes for coming to terms with the suffering induced by human rights abuses, including such works as Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, excerpts from Martha Minnow's Between Vengeance and Forgiveness and the 2000 documentary film, "Long Night's Journey into Day" which explores the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Finally we will return to the contemporary human rights scene, employing the various analytical perspectives that have emerged in the course to undertake a deeper exploration of the human rights implications of globalization.


Mark Bradley is assistant professor of history and teaches courses about twentieth century international history, war and memory, diasporic cultures and human rights. He is the author of Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950 (2000) and is currently working on a project titled "Becoming International: A History of Transnational Passions in the Twentieth Century" which seeks to recover the processes that brought the Euro-American and non-Western internationalist imaginations, including transnational human rights norms, into being and gave them meaning and power.

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