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School of International Service Courses

Specialized Human Rights Courses

Classes that directly addresses human rights and issues of inequities

SIS 322: Introduction to Human Rights – This course provides a broad overview of international human rights, beginning with an exploration of the philosophical and political foundations and then turning to the main principles of international human rights law and policy. The course also provides a solid grounding in the main United Nations and regional systems for human rights protection and promotion. In addition, students are introduced to the methodology of human rights fact-finding, including interview techniques and planning investigations Throughout the course, students are encouraged to think as both advocates and critics, and to explore whether and how they could make a productive contribution to this dynamic field.

SIS 396: Human Rights and the Media – This course explores the relationship between human rights and the media, including the role of media as an authoritative source of information on human rights abuses, the role of media in drawing attention to issues and framing them in human rights terms, in shaping culture, and in fighting “compassion fatigue.” At times, the relationship between the media and human fights is unclear.  Does the media shape human rights understandings?  Or, is it “human rights” that shape the media?  The course examines media as a site of participation, exploring the influence of human rights film festivals and addressing the impact of Youtube, reality TV, American Idol-styled contests, and other trends.  Ultimately, the course wonders, is access to the media itself a human right?  What does it mean to be “media literate” today?

SIS 419: Human Rights in Latin America – Drawing on theory and case studies, this course examines alternative answers to questions such as what explains the horrific human rights abuses that took place in Latin America during the Cold War, and how and why patterns of human rights abuse have changed since then, including after 9/11. It examines the role of the United States, international and national NGOs, and other actors in the region's observance of political, socio-economic, indigenous, and women's rights.

SIS 419: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy – The story of human rights in U.S. foreign policy is one of perpetual tension and resistance, of interpretation and reinterpretation. This course explores the nature of this dynamic process, exposing the way in which it involves both acceptance of and resistance to human rights. The course is divided into seven learning modules: The first two modules provide historical and conceptual context, while the next two modules discuss both the "hard" and "soft" instruments in the human rights foreign policy toolbox. The final three modules examine in greater depth the human rights foreign policy approaches adopted by the current U.S. administration, with special attention to changes in policy and practice post-9/11 and post-Iraq invasion.

SIS 496: Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide in Comparative Perspective – This course explores ethnic cleansing and genocide as one of the central events in the twentieth century. Students are introduced to the history of the encounter between political, sociological, ideological, and cultural components that enable ethnic cleansing and genocide to happen. The course analyzes nine cases of ethnic cleansing and genocide: the Herero genocide, the Armenian genocide, the Ukraine famine, the Nanking Massacre (The Raping of Nanking), the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and the Sudan genocide.

SIS 517: Gender, Human Rights, and Conflict – This seminar examines the gender dimensions of human wrongs associated with violent conflict. Students are encouraged to ask questions about the complexity of human rights problems and consider aspects of human rights problems made invisible to the outside world by silencing or obscuring the victims. Students also explore how each aspect of conflict is gendered. Of primary concern are gendered forms of resistance to and cooperation with agents of war and peace, the role gender plays in the militaries and militarization, the impact of militarization on the lives of men and women in both war and peace time, and recent legal and political attempts to address gender-based violence in human rights.

SIS 519: Human Rights and Conflict – This course explores the increasingly relevant intersection of international human rights and conflict. It introduces students to many of the ethical and operational issues that policymakers, diplomats, human rights and humanitarian aid workers, soldiers, peace-keepers and civilian police face in responding to today's conflicts. In so doing, the course also provides students with a basic understanding of humanitarian law. The class explores human rights as a cause or consequence of violent conflict; holding militaries and paramilitaries responsible for violations; peace negotiations and human rights advocacy; the truth vs. justice debate in truth commissions and war crimes trials; civil society as a human rights safeguard; human rights implications of the war on terrorism; and the human rights of refugees and displaced people.

SIS 519: Islam & Human Rights – This course examines human rights as a value and norm in international relations and of Islam as a constituent of political culture. It explores the wealth of information dealing with the issue from the Quranic discourse, the Prophetic tradition, Muslim scholars' interpretations, modern humanism perspectives, international law documents, independent scholars' findings, and official and non-official declarations by the United Nations and other organizations. The many questions explored include the following: What do people in Muslim cultures think about human rights and why? How does Islam influence the understanding of human rights in Muslim societies? Is there an antithesis between Islam as a religion and the value of human rights? How do we evaluate proposals for a particularly Islamic conceptualization of human rights?

SIS 622: Human Rights – This course explains the main principles of international human rights law and provides a solid grounding in the main United Nations and regional systems for human rights protection and promotion. In addition, students are introduced to the methodology of human rights fact-finding, including interview techniques and planning investigations. The course also considers the political, sociological, and ethical dimensions of human rights advocacy. Students consider the ways in which human rights address human society and how we treat one another, how authority is used, and issues of basic justice and fairness.

SIS 639: Human Rights Monitoring – This course provides students with the necessary skills to monitor human rights violations in global armed conflicts. This highly participatory class instructs students on all forms of human rights monitoring, from the traditional preparation of reports, advocacy and interventions to the innovations in the use of satellite technology, Google Earth, cell phones/videophones and conflict blogging. Participants gain theoretical and practical knowledge on the principles and methods of human rights monitoring in conflicts, both rapid onset and protracted. Students learn, through case studies, how to recognize and address human rights concerns such as refugee displacement and increase of Internally Displaced Persons; the presence of humanitarian catastrophe; increased incidents of violence against civilians; arms transfers; and clampdowns on freedom of expression and civil liberties. Students also gain a solid understanding of the laws of war, in order to apply these standards to monitoring and responding to the egregious crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, aggression and war crimes.

Related Human Rights Courses

Classes that incorporate human rights or social inequities into their subject matter, but are not based around a human rights framework.

SIS 140: Cross Cultural Communication – This course examines the impact of culture on perception, thought patterns, values, and beliefs in order to better understand the behavior of individuals in different cultures. Specific concerns include cross-cultural conflict and negotiation; the relationship between dominant cultures and subcultures; the issues of race, gender, and class in various societies; and the dynamics of cross-cultural adjustment.

SIS 319: Gender in International Development – This course examines from an interdisciplinary and international perspective how development is gendered and creates different meanings, impacts, and processes for women around the world. The course explores the different theoretical approaches used in understanding women’s situation in developing societies and examines the impact of production and reproduction, politics, globalization, environment, and migration on women in different parts of the developing world. The course probes the success and failure of development strategies in incorporating women into the development process and explores new approaches to ensure women’s empowerment and their agency to fully participate in development processes.

SIS 319: Minorities in the Middle East & North Africa – This course focuses on the ethnic, religious, national, linguistic, and political minorities in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, including minority groups within Islam. It discusses the background and situation of various minorities in the area, and their roles in the politics and social structures of the societies in which they live, as well as their movement and diaspora status in the world.

SIS 319: Peace and Social Justice – This course offers a study of the methods, history, and practitioners of nonviolence and the efforts to create a justice-based society. The course familiarizes students with both the philosophy of pacifism and alternatives to violence, whether among nations or among individuals faced with violence in their daily lives. This course is discussion-based, with dissent welcomed.

SIS 337/637: International Development – (337) This survey course covers the history of the field of international development from colonialism to current issues. It addresses major theories of development; changing approaches to foreign aid; measures of development; reasons for poverty; structural adjustment and debt; the rise of East Asia; and a variety of current issues in international development. The focus is on understanding and analyzing contending viewpoints. (637) Alternative theories and definitions of development as expressed in the major international institutions (aid agencies, cartels, multinational corporations) concerned with the transfer of resources. Considers the problems of the "change-agent" in working for development and examines the major development issues.

SIS 338: Environment and Development – This course is an overview of the multidisciplinary field of environment and development. It explores development-related root causes of Third World natural-resource degradation including poverty, inequality, population growth, faulty prices, agricultural modernization, national development model, and economic globalization. The course also explores innovative policy responses attempting to link environment and development.

SIS 419: Health and Development – This course provides students with an understanding of the relationships between health and development from a variety of perspectives. Students gain knowledge of the linkages between health, socio-economic growth, and equity in different countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Attention is given to some of the most urgent public health challenges facing developing countries, including the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The course also introduces students to the skills required for planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of health programs in developing countries.

SIS 419: Victims of Violence – This course focuses on who the victims of violence are, what efforts are being made to address their needs, and how victims themselves become agents of change. As many of the men in conflicts are either recruited to fight or are killed, more than three-fourths of the refugees and displaced persons are women and children. Unfortunately, these victims are often sidelined, ignored, or dealt with quantitatively. This course explores the need for the whole of society to work together to halt the cycle of violence.

SIS 419: Third World Cities – The course analyzes the dimensions and challenges of the rapidly growing cities and mega-cities of the Third World. Attention is also given to issues such as poverty, unemployment, housing, water, infrastructure, revenue, health, etc, and learning lessons from a variety of approaches to urban planning, development, and finance. It also includes urban challenges in the United States.

SIS 419: Rural Development – This course provides a background to the problems of rural development theory and practice today. Readings explore specific rural dynamics and present the complexities of culture, environment, production, and social change in different settings. The course also looks at how rural development has re-emerged as a focal point for development organizations.

SIS 419/619: Ethics in Peacebuilding – This course explores ethical dilemmas in international peacebuilding. It seeks to answer questions about what ethical dilemmas arise in peacebuilding, how these dilemmas can be addressed, and whether ethical peacebuilding interventions are possible. The course divides ethical dilemmas into three categories of analysis: dilemmas that arise within peacebuilding paradigms, policies, and on-the-ground practices. Students are introduced to a number of core ethical theories, concepts, and frameworks which they apply to case studies. Through the course, students broaden their understanding of ethics in peacebuilding, acquire theoretical and conceptual tools for analyzing ethical dilemmas, and develop skills in designing ethical responses to the challenges that arise in peacebuilding practice.

SIS 519: Ethnicity, Crime, and Immigration – This course examines similarities and differences in the way industrialized countries have dealt with the thorny issues of security, crime, immigration, and civil rights. In particular, it looks at the construction of national, racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries, and the impact of these boundaries on police, penal institutions, and targeted groups in the United States and Europe.

SIS 540: Conflict and Development – This course examines the way in which development processes, strategies, and polices increase or decrease local, national, and international conflicts, as well as the ways in which conflicts at all levels condition development choices.

SIS 542: Global Human Security – This course examines developments in and ways of thinking about security since the end of the bi-polar world order. The course considers ways of thinking about security other than through the national security framework; works towards an understanding of non-military threats to human life, communities, societies, and cultures; examines the intersection of globalism and new forms of security provision; examines the impact of organized crime; assesses the scope and consequences of light weapons proliferation, especially for developing countries; and analyzes forms of involvement in wars.

SIS 624: Children in International Development – This course focuses on the predicament of children in various situations around the world in which they are exploited, abused, or disadvantaged. It includes street children, child soldiers, child labor, AIDS orphans, handicapped children, and trafficking in children. Constructive alternatives to deal with these problems are also discussed.

SIS 648: Women and International Development – This course provides the student with a critical evaluation of the main theoretical structures of feminism as applied to an analysis of the multiple facets of women's lives in the developing world. It explores the diverse socioeconomic, cultural, religious and political factors that affect women including the impact of development itself.