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SP50315: Approaches to human rights in context

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Blog post (CW 20%)
  • Essay (CW 80%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: At the end of this unit students will be able to:
* Critically evaluate competing disciplinary accounts of human rights and human rights violations
* Critically evaluate and justify arguments over appropriate responses to human rights abuses
* demonstrate critical independent judgement and insight into the politics and ethics of human rights in theory and practice.

Aims: This unit offers
* an advanced and in-depth introduction to competing accounts of human rights and human rights violations
* comprehensive and critical introduction to the range of theoretical, political and policy responses to arguments about human rights abuses in diverse contexts
* critical and in-depth review of the key arguments about the strengths and limits of using human rights frames to respond to conflict.

Skills: At the end of this unit students will be able to:
* evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative concepts and approaches to human rights and their relevance to specific cases. (T/F/A)
* apply relevant concepts about human rights approaches and responses and explain their significance in specific empirical contexts (T/F/A)
* Synthesise complex material and evidence from diverse sources to generate insights into empirical cases (T/F/A)
* Analyse, and apply, concepts to evaluate alternative strategies, policies and practical responses to diverse human rights contexts (T/F/A)
* communicate complex arguments in a clear, ethical and rigorous way in a range of formats suitable for diverse audiences; (T/F/A)
* construct persuasive and critically engaged arguments in the area of development and humanitarianism for diverse professional audiences; (T/F/A).

Content: The unit draws on a range of disciplinary orientations, including philosophy, history, politics, anthropology and sociology, to understand and critically evaluate the foundations, growth, and limits of approaches to human rights theory and practice. The unit will draw on the three case studies circulated to students prior to the start of the course. The unit is organized around three thematic parts: foundations, problems and advocacy. Typically, each part would cover the following topics
Part One - Foundations (weeks 1-4)
* Theoretical and philosophical foundations of human rights
* Cosmopolitanism and rights
* The growth of the human rights project
* The limits of human rights: Culture, rights and relativism
* The limits of human rights: Rights and empire
Part Two - Problems and Responses (5-8)
* Modernity, colonialism and genocide
* Understanding perpetration
* Redressing human rights violations: Transitional justice
* Redressing human rights violations: Historical injustice, reparation, compensation
Part Three - Advocacy and Communication (9-12)
* Humanitarian communication
* Official denials and bystander publics
* The limits of human rights reporting
* Human rights futures.

Programme availability:

SP50315 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • THSP-ADM31 : MSc Humanitarianism, Conflict and Development


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.