HR/PS V3001x, INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Prof. Andrew J. Nathan
Office Hours: Wed. 1-2:30 and by appointment
Margaret Lange (
Jeffrey Lenowitz (
Felix Gerlsbeck (
. International human rights is a powerful idea in our time, but also the focus of
numerous controversies: it not only embodies a set of ideals but also functions as a political tool,
which different forces try to bend to their own ends.
The result of this struggle is a process of
norm contestation and norm change that the course seeks to understand.
The course looks at
selected intellectual controversies and political puzzles surrounding human rights theory and
It explores the central institutions of the human rights regime.
It discusses how human
rights norms change, and it analyzes some of the challenges of contemporary human rights
The course grade will be based on two take-home examinations and two essays.
The four assignments will be weighted equally in the final grade.
The essays should be 5-7
pages long and may be of the following kinds:
(a) An explorations paper, which takes a look at a topic of interest to you, based on
published works and/or websites.
We have in mind topics which are not adequately covered in
the course reading, and on which you would like more information.
We want to learn what
information you have gathered, but we also want to know why you think the issue is important,
what conclusions you have provisionally drawn from the information you have gathered and, as
appropriate, what you think are the biases or inadequacies of the sources that you used.
(b) A policy paper, which recommends a policy in some issue area or in some country
for some actor (a government, NGO, multinational organization, etc.).
A policy paper should be
addressed to a specific actor (e.g., president, secretary of state, members of the legislature),
should propose policies that are feasible for that actor, and should appeal to that actor’s motives
You may wish to run your ideas past the instructor or a TF first in order to be sure
that you’re addressing the various aspects that a policy paper needs to address, such as a specific
policy actor, consistency with that actor’s motives, and feasibility.
(c) A critical book review.
A critical essay addresses two books (or other items
equivalent in length to a book) not on the course list, chosen in consultation with the instructor or
Such an essay should avoid summarizing the material in the books, and should offer an
independent consideration of the issues the books discuss and a critique of the authors’ analyses.