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Professor Julie Mertus - Syllabi

Syllabi and Course Descriptions

SIS 517.001: Gender, Human Rights & Conflict

This seminar examines the gender dimensions of conflict and political violence, with particular attention to the implications of a rights-based framework in conflict scenarios. It explores how each stage of conflict is gendered, including: (1) the origins of aggression and the preparations for war through the militarization of society and the engendering of human security; (2) the conduct of war, wartime atrocities, and the composition, training and performance of armed forces; and, (3) the aftermath of war and conflict prevention attempts through peace agreements, peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts, and the structures and practices of transitional justice. Of central concern throughout the course is feminist activism and gendered forms of resistance to and cooperation with political violence. This class demands extensive student participation and it relies heavily on discussion of both recent books and films.


SIS 519.002: Special Studies in Int’l Pol: Human Rights & Conflict

This course explores the dynamic, complex and powerful relationship between human rights and violent conflict.  From human rights abuses that precipitate violence, through third-party interventions and humanitarian relief efforts, to the building of accountability mechanisms, this course explores the actors and issues involved and analyzes the attendant dynamics and dilemmas. Among the issues addressed are: the law of war, refugee law, counter-terrorism and civil liberties on the home front, truth commissions and transitional justice. Case studies include: Sierra Leone, the Balkans and the global “war on terror.”  Prior classes in human rights and/or peace and conflict resolution is helpful, but not required. There will be one field trip to either the Holocaust Museum or to the new building of the U.S. Institute for Peace.


SIS 519.023: Special Studies in Int’l Pol: Human Rights & U.S. Foreign Policy

The purpose of this course is two-fold.  First, the course seeks to impart information about the nature and significance of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.  The course provides the opportunity to think about the complex, dynamic relationship between the two fields; for the student of human rights, the course adds a foreign policy dimension and for the student of foreign policy, the course adds a human rights dimension.  Second, the class also develops skills in policy analysis and provides students with an opportunity to improve their writing ability.  Frequent written assignments and ongoing feedback from the instructor enhance the capacity-building objectives of this course.  The use of video clips and PowerPoint presentations keep the class timely and focused, while at the same time opening the class to novel and often conflicting ideas.

SIS 619.N02: Special Studies in Int’l Pol: Human Rights Advocacy & Peacebuilding

This course is an intensive forty-hour, one-week training session in which students meet with leading human rights and peacebuilding advocates, learn proven advocacy methods, explore cutting-edge issues and practice advocacy skills.  The course seeks to deepen understanding of the role human rights play in peacemaking and “peace-breaking,” i.e. conflict.


SIS 622.001: Human Rights

This human rights course has been specifically designed to address the needs and interests of graduate students of international studies and, in particular, those engaged in the study of peace and conflict resolution, international ethics, international politics and international development.

The course begins by examining the philosophical and political bases for the international human rights movement, probing the ongoing debate over universality, culture and human rights. In addition the course introduces the main United Nations and regional systems for human rights protection and promotion and, in so doing, provides a tool for analyzing conflict and various forms of interventions attempting to promote peace and justice.


SIS 396.001: Selected Topics: Non-Recurring: Human Rights and the Media

This course examines how various means of mass communication – movies, TV, radio, music, the internet, etc. – affect the realization of human rights. Through the close study of documentary films and other audio-visual material, students will be introduced to the concept of human rights and debates about their implementation – such as the effect of U.S. foreign policy on human rights, the role of the United Nations, the use of war to protect or threaten human rights, and the changing nature of human rights activism. Students will also examine how representatives of the media can serve (deliberately or unwittingly) to build a human rights culture, expose human rights violations, become victims of human rights abuses, or facilitate those very violations. The course will be integrated with AU’s Human Rights Film Series, and will provide options for both students eager to make their own videos as well as those who prefer more traditional assignments.