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Unit information: The Politics of Human Rights in 2020/21

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Unit name The Politics of Human Rights
Unit code POLI30026
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Ashley Dodsworth
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The Politics of Human Rights introduces students to the debates over human rights. Exploring the contemporary debates over rights to migration and torture, the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of human rights, debates over who can possess such rights and the ethical considerations over measurement, this unit will enable students to both understand and participate in the dominant moral language of contemporary politics and the contested attempts to apply it.

The aims of this unit are:

  • to examine the theoretical and practical underpinnings of human rights
  • explore what is meant by ‘human’, how such rights have developed, the extent of their reach and their measurement.
  • enable students to understand the contemporary political debate surrounding five rights; the rights of migrants, the right to life, the right to freedom from torture, gender rights and environmental rights

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Thoroughly understand the development of human rights and the problems inherent with the definition of these concepts, particularly with regard to the terms ‘universality’ and ‘human’
  • Show a mastery of the methodologies that are used to assess human rights fulfilment and the ability to apply these methods appropriately
  • Assess and critically evaluate the contemporary debate surrounding key human rights and develop their own position in response
  • Present and defend a detailed and well-structured position in response to the relevant academic literature and their own research

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

1,500 word essay (25%) 3,000 word essay (75%)

Reading and References

  • James Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights, (Blackwell: New York, 2007)
  • Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights, (New York: Norton, 2007)
  • Todd Landman and Edzia Carvalho, Measuring Human Rights, (New York: Routledge, 2010)
  • Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Third Edition, (USA: Cornell University Press, 2013)
  • Andrew Clapham, Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction, Second Edition, (Oxford: OUP, 2015)
  • Michael Goodhart (ed), Human Rights: Polices and Practice, Third Edition (New York: OUP, 2016)