Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)


Spring 2023 courses focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues for undergraduate students

HIST 0276: A Global History of the Atomic Age

We live in the atomic age. From 1945 to the foreseeable future, atomic weapons and nuclear energy have had (and will continue to have) a tremendous effect on global politics, the environment, and everyday life around the world. This course introduces students to three themes in this broader history: first, we examine the origins of nuclear proliferation and the global arms race; second, we explore cultural responses to the atomic age; third, we juxtapose the excitement over the unlimited promise of nuclear energy with the slow catastrophes that accompanied weapons development, the nuclear industry, and waste storage.

HIST 1382: The Environmental History of Latin America

This course offers students an introduction to environmental history from perspectives that center the societies and ecologies of Latin America and the Caribbean. Thinking across different chronologies and spaces, we will draw from a range of historical and interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as primary sources, to examine changing relationships between Latin American environments and their attendant social, cultural, political, urban, agrarian, maritime, legal and economic histories. Our collective explorations on these topics will adopt various scales of analysis, from local and regional to continental, and will push us to approach key themes of Precolonial, Colonial, and Modern Latin American historiography from an environmental lens, including: Indigenous histories; colonialism, extractivism, and slavery; Afro-Latinx histories; capitalism and dependency theory; the politics of modern conservation.

IAPA 1804M: Overcoming Threats to Human Security

This course provides students with a comprehensive introduction to exploring challenges and opportunities related to global issues from both a human and national security perspective – with a special focus on putting people and communities, as opposed to national interests, at the center of attention. Students will gain a deep understanding of key issues including humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change, food and water security, urbanization, mass migration, and infectious disease/pandemics on vulnerable people around the world.

PHIL 0403: Ethics and Politics of Data

Persona data is ubiquitous: with the proliferation of digital technology, our lives and bodies have become increasingly observable, quantifiable, and interconnected. This generates new opportunity for the state, private companies, and other individuals to act on us. Data makes us more powerful but also more vulnerable. This course focuses on the new ethical and political challenges of lives permeated by the creation, collection, and processing of personal information. Do we own data? Is there a right to be forgotten? Should we use data to predict and manipulate individual behaviour? What responsibilities do we have to others whose data is intertwined with ours? These and other related topics will be the focus of this course.

POLS 1290: Politics, Markets, and States in Developing Countries

How can we explain fundamental differences in economic performance and policy across developing countries in the face of Globalization? Why are some countries praised as economic "miracles," yet others seem mired in inescapable stagnation? This course addresses these questions by introducing the basic topics, concepts, and theoretical approaches that comprise the field of political economy of development. The course draws on case studies from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

POLS 1420: Money and Power in the International Political Economy

Examines how the interaction of states and markets create distinct global monetary and political orders. Class analyzes the shift from the classical liberal Gold Standard through the Post-War Bretton Woods arrangements through to the globalized IPE of today.

POLS 1530: Gender, Slavery, and Freedom

Will examine how gender shaped slavery in the Americas. How did the experiences of enslaved men and women differ? Did the experiences of enslaved women result in specific practices that formed the basis for resistance to slavery and dehumanization? How did gendered experiences of slavery in turn affect the notions of freedom that were developed in post- emancipation societies? We will also consider how practices or ideas developed during slavery have contributed to the “afterlife” of slavery after official emancipation. We will analyze slavery as a concrete set of practices that were experienced and negotiated differently by enslaved men and women.

POLS 1825B: The Politics of the Laws of War

From the wars that befell ancient Sumerian city states to contemporary armed conflicts raging in countries such as Ukraine, Syria, and Ethiopia, laws and norms have shaped combatants’ behavior. What are the laws of war? What explains how this body of laws evolved? Why do some combatants adhere to the laws of war, whereas others intentionally target civilians, torture detainees, recruit child soldiers, and perpetrate sexual and gender-based violence? In this seminar, students will probe these questions from different angles: as political scientists, historians, international legal scholars, and policy practitioners. Students will develop expertise in the content of the contemporary laws of war, explore the politics of how the laws of war operate (or fail to operate) during wartime, and engage with the current landscape of legal and political issues inherent in armed conflicts today.

PHP 0700: Global Public Health Interventions

This is an introductory course designed to provide an overview of social and behavioral global health interventions. This course will introduce the history of global public health interventions and the philosophy of global public health including its core values, concepts, and functions. It will present an overview of design, implementation, and evaluation considerations for behavioral and social interventions in global settings with a particular focus on settings of resource scarcity. Furthermore, this course will focus on understanding the socio-economic, behavioral, biological, and other factors that impact human health and contribute to health disparities globally. To encourage participative learning, the class will collectively decide on 4-5 health topics to dive deeper into and apply knowledge learned at the beginning of the course to global health topics of interest.

SOC 1270: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the Modern World

Applies sociological analysis to understand present and historical cases of ethnic and race relations and conflicts. Topics addressed are the social construction of race and ethnicity; historical processes of racialization; ethnic conflict and the nation state; and the linkages between race, class, and social mobility. Focuses on racial and ethnic relations in the U.S., but also has a strong international comparative component.

SOC 1490: Power, Knowledge, and Justice in Global Social Change

How bad is climate change, and how much worse it will get? How are global inequalities’ changing? What are their consequences? How is white supremacy implicated here? What is our responsibility in analyzing/engaging these questions? You have at least an implicit response to these questions and others addressing global transformations. This course will help refine your understandings by inviting you to consider the actors, structures, norms and powers shaping how change works and why we judge its expressions as we do. Across some 20 areas of global change, we compare conceptions of power and justice in their various articulations.

IAPA 1700B: Investigating Modes of Social Change

This course examines the range of approaches to making social change through democratic institutions and processes in the U.S. These approaches-- direct service, community organizing, policy/politics, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and research/scholarship-- have different value systems, methodologies, strengths and limitations. There’s no one “right” approach, and the modes often intersect in ways that can be mutually reinforcing or counterproductive. The course will be valuable to students interested in being involved in social change during their time at Brown and in their future careers.

GNSS 1610: Transnational Feminisms

What constitutes transnational feminism(s)? How do activists in various parts of the world understand and articulate their relationships to feminism and feminist organizing? How do women and queer people in specific cultural contexts resist multiple forms of oppression and transform understandings of gender, citizenship, and nation? This course explores how feminism is understood throughout the world and examines struggles for gender equality in both a historical and transnational perspective. We will explore themes of colonialism, globalization, nationalism, immigration, representation, global economies, war and militarism, human rights, and politics of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Theoretical developments in transnational feminist and postcolonial theory and case studies of transnational feminist activism allow you to develop a framework to critically explore the intersections of feminism, transnationalism, and social justice and gain an understanding of intersecting inequities throughout the world.

POLs 1820G: Politics and Nature

This course investigates the politics of the relationship between people and the earth; examines the environmental consequences of this relationship as it currently exists, as well as its impact on human justice and freedom; and explores alternative political imaginaries and institutional forms that include the non-human, evaluating their implications for sustainability, justice, and freedom. In the course of considering the political relationship between human beings and the earth, we examine core political concepts including domination, freedom, agency, sovereignty, democracy, justice, liberalism, rights, representation, and the political. We also explore the relationship between politics and ethical life.

MES 1301: Interventions and Activism in the Contemporary Middle East

It is not uncommon to hear simplifying perspectives when it comes to analyses of politics and everyday lives of people in the Middle East. Instead of reducing lived experiences into binary categorizations (success or failure, authoritarian or democratic), this course examines the intricate relations between top-down political decisions, interventions and bottom-up resistance movements. It raises questions about the connections among economy, crises, democracy, and humanitarianism, and introduces diverse stories and perspectives. Using comparative historical and social scientific analysis, we will discuss topics ranging from struggles against colonial containment to the role of urban movements in social change; from the impacts of Global North-induced crises on Islamic mobilization to the use of humanitarianism as a governance tool; from LGBTQ+ movements to artistic and digital unrest; and from “Arab” Spring to the intersectionality of struggles across identities.

POLS 1820F: Black Protest: Theory and Praxis

This course explores the theory and praxis of black protest in the Americas, which were formulated in response to the different racial orders that developed in the U.S. and Latin America. We will analyze how black populations mobilized to escape slavery, resist racial terror and white supremacy, gain rights from the state, protect black life, and overcome various forms of dehumanization. Examples will include anti-lynching campaigns in the U.S., the civil rights and other black movement of the 1960s, the Black Lives Matter movement, and mobilizations against “black genocide,” police violence, and displacement in Brazil and other Latin American countries.