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


Fall 2021 courses focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues for undergraduate students

POLS 0400: Introduction to International Politics 

This course provides a basic introduction to the central theoretical perspectives and debates in international relations. The second part of the course applies these models to current problems in international relations, including globalization, state failure, humanitarian intervention, NGOs, terrorist networks, environmental issues, and possible future change in international politics.

POLS 1085: Injustice

How should we respond to injustice? Violently or non-violently? Lawfully or disobediently? Should we try legal channels first or are some injustices too severe and urgent? When do we have an obligation to join those already resisting injustices? History presents us with an enormous repertoire of ways people have resisted injustice: conscientious refusal, passive resistance, non-violent direct action, sabotage, civil disobedience, strikes, mass protests, and revolution. This course will read works of political philosophy next to signature events of our own time, such as Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter Movement, the Tea Party, and labor strikes, to discuss the above questions.

POLS 1560: American Foreign Policy 

This course provides an overview of American Foreign Policy since World War I. The emphasis will be on defense and security policy, and not on foreign economic policy. This course covers significant historical events and personalities over the course of the twentieth century. When events dictate, part of any given daily class may be devoted to current events in American Foreign Policy, with emphasis on their historical source and context. Prerequisite: POLS 0400.

IAPA 0200: Foundations of Development

This course course presents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of development. The course examines what constitutes development from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives, and the course examines how and in what context the term “development” itself has evolved over time. The goal of this course is to provide students an intellectual and conceptual grounding for studying a variety of issues surrounding development, whether in the global North or South.

IAPA 1205: International Law

This introduction to public international law covers the nature of legal reasoning in international relations, the interplay of international law and international politics, and the international legal process. Examines selected substantive fields such as state responsibility, the use of force, international human rights, and the U.S. and international law.

IAPA 1701: Drug War Politics

This seminar examines the politics, practice, and consequences of government efforts to regulate mind-altering substances since the early 20th century. Although much of the focus is on the contemporary United States and Latin America, the coverage is broadly historical, comparative, and global. The main drugs focused on are cocaine, opium, and cannabis, but will include alcohol, tobacco, and synthetics. The course also evaluates policy alternatives and the obstacles to policy reform. The course draws on readings from fields such as political science, anthropology, criminology, and history. The seminar is reading intensive, and is designed to cultivate critical writing and presentation skills.

IAPA 1702: Sex and War

The course explores biological and social determinants of participation in aggression, violence, and war; along with how and why sex differences become gendered. Some topics include gender biases in international relations theories, women in combat, LGBTQs in the military, discourse, attitudes towards war, rape, and female and male roles in the conduct of war. The course also assesses the ongoing evolution of the roles of women as leaders, actors, and agenda-setters in, and objects of, foreign policy. Some familiarity with international relations theory is helpful, but there are no prerequisites.

POLS 1240 Humanitarian Response in Human Conflict 

This course provides students with a comprehensive introduction to exploring challenges and opportunities related to conflict 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 humanitarian crises caused by conflict, including impacts on food and water security, healthcare, mass displacement of civilians, and protection of civilians and humanitarian aid workers.

IAPA 1804Q: French Colonialism in Global Perspective, 19th-20th Centuries

In this seminar we examine how French colonial power deployed itself in different parts of the world both through self-legitimizing discourses and the imposition of political and economic systems of domination. We read classic and more recent scholarship on colonial wars and violence, the ideology of the French “civilizing mission”, legal and economic discrimination and how colonialism transformed local ecologies. Colonial power was constantly debated, resisted, and subverted across metropole and colonies. We pay close attention to these voices and trace the emergence of political anti-colonialism in the aftermath of the First World War. We will examine how French colonialism was fought and eventually (partially) dismantled towards the middle of the 20th century. The course will end with an examination of current debates about the legacies of French colonialism in France and in formerly colonized countries.

HIST 0252: The American Civil War in Global Perspective: History, Law, and Popular Culture

This course uses the American Civil War of 1861-1865 to investigate certain issues relevant to current domestic and global affairs: the use of history in popular memory and popular culture (focusing on the Civil War in public art and film); the role of law in the prosecution and resolution of war; international law, especially as it applies to war and human rights. The course is aimed at students interested in history, law, and international relations. There are no prerequisites--the course is accessible to students at all levels--but some knowledge of U.S. history might be useful.

HIST 0285A: Modern Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity

This lecture course explores genocide and other crimes against humanity across the world during the 20th century. We will discuss the origins of modern genocide in the transition to modernity and subsequent conceptualizations of this phenomenon; review examples of colonial, imperial, racial, communist, anti-communist, and post-colonial genocides; discuss war crimes and other mass crimes perpetrated by authoritarian regimes; and consider policies of mass deportation and ethnic cleansing. This course will conclude with a discussion of attempts by the international community to prevent and punish genocide along with various ways in which genocide has been commemorated or denied.

HIST 1030: Entangled South Africa

Examines the contradiction of twentieth century South Africa as a divided society that nonetheless had dense contact across boundaries. In considering daily life, social interactions, and relations with animals, we find a challenging politics of entanglement within the class, gender, and racial hierarchies of apartheid. We close with a discussion of new divisions and alignments emerging during the transition to democratic rule in the 1990s.

HIST 1240A: Politics of Violence in 20C Europe

Europe's 20th century saw the emergence of forms of violence unthinkable in a world without mass politics. To better understand the changes in European states and societies that gave rise to total war and the violence associated with totalizing ideologies such as fascism and communism, we will read Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Fanon and others who sought to interpret violence as an extension of ideology. We will also read selections from more recent works by state leaders, historians and cultural figures from Ukraine to France, from Turkey to Great Britain who have reinterpreted past violence for present political ends.

HIST 1969A: Israel-Palestine: Lands and People I

This advanced undergraduate seminar seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the links between the region now known as Israel and Palestine and the peoples that have inhabited it or have made it into part of their mental, mythical. and religious landscape throughout history. The course will be interdisciplinary at its very core, engaging the perspectives of historians, geologists, geographers, sociologists, scholars of religion and the arts, politics and media. At the very heart of the seminar is the question: What makes for the bond between groups and place - real or imagined, tangible or ephemeral. No prerequisites.

HIST 1969C: Debates in Middle Eastern History 

This seminar investigates the historical bases of some of the major debates which continue to dominate contemporary discussions on the Middle East. These include debates on colonialism and its legacies; problems associated with the post-colonial Middle Eastern state (the "democracy deficit": human rights; oil; political Islam); and arguments about the causes and consequences of some of the major events in Middle Eastern history (the Israel-Palestinian conflict; the Iranian revolution; the Lebanese civil war; 9/11 and the Iraq invasion; and the Arab Spring.

POBS 1601P: Global Decolonization in Africa and Asia: the Portuguese Case in a Comparative Perspective 

This course provides a critical, comparative assessment of the global decolonization momentum, taking the Portuguese case as the key case-study. It does so by exploring diverse historiographical problems and historical processes that shaped the multiple trajectories of decolonization after 1945. As a consequence, the course also addresses the role of international and transnational networks, movements and institutions in the global histories of decolonization, as major players in the demise of European colonialism. The historical legacies of late colonialism in politics, society and culture, both in former colonies and metropoles, will also be assessed. Conducted in English.

FREN 1410T: L'expérience des réfugiés: déplacements, migrations

An exploration of the experience of refugees and immigrants with two components. The first component consists of close study of the French context from Decolonization up through the current refugee crisis based on literature, film, the press, and critical essays. The second component of this course will give students the opportunity to work with refugee/recent immigrant communities in Providence. This is a community-engaged course requiring substantial commitment beyond the classroom. Taught in French. Prerequisite: a course at the 0600- or 0700-level or equivalent proficiency. Contact the instructor to verify your proficiency if you have not taken French at Brown.

PHP 1802S: Human Security and Humanitarian Response: Increasing Effectiveness and Accountability

Disasters, natural and anthropogenic, pose significant threats to human security. Effective humanitarian action is important for both short and long-term responses to complex emergencies. The array of factors contributing to the economic and human losses experienced in both natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies are vast and complicated, and the strategies employed to mitigate and heal the damage caused by these disturbances must be equal to the task. This course covers diverse topics including the role of NGOs, UN agencies, local governments, peacekeepers and military in humanitarian response; economic impact of humanitarian aid; the evidence base for humanitarian interventions.

AFRI 0800: Theorizing Racism

Since the eruption of Black Lives Matter protest across the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the acknowledgement and denunciation of systemic racism in mainstream discourse has significantly increased. As more and more people agree that racism is a contemporary problem, an old question emerges: What do people mean when they say “racism”? This lecture course situates mainstream discourse about racism within racism’s contentious conceptual history, critically engages a dynamic interdisciplinary debate about the meaning of racism, and imagines what it would take to achieve a world without racism.

AFRI 1920: Health Inequality in Historical Perspective

Seminar takes a historical perspective to explore causes of health inequality. Draws on studies from the 19th century-present. Examines socio–political and economic context of health/disease, focusing on how race, class, and gender shape the experience of health, disease causality, and public health responses with emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic. Includes health consequences of immigration and pandemics, incarceration, race-based medicine. Enrollment restricted to 20, second and third-year students.

ANTH 0066J: So You Want to Change the World?

Examines from an anthropological perspective efforts to address global poverty that are typically labeled as "development." The enterprise of development is considered critically, both with regard to the intentions and purposes that underlie the actions of wealthy countries, donor organizations, and expatriate development workers and with regard to the outcomes for the people who are the intended beneficiaries. Privileging the perspectives of ordinary people in developing countries, but also looking carefully at the institutions involved in development, the course relies heavily on ethnographic case studies that will draw students into the complexity of one of the greatest contemporary global problems: social inequality. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students.

JUDS 0050H: Israel's Wars

Israel's history has unfolded under the shadow of its prolonged conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. This first year seminar will survey the military aspect of this conflict. The major aim of the course is to present an historical survey of the Israeli-Arab wars and Jewish-Palestinian encounters in the 20th century. This will provide some of the necessary background for understanding the present phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, and help in comprehending the roots and causes of contemporary controversies between Israel and the Palestinians and/or its Arab neighboring states. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students.

CSCI 1805: Computers, Freedom and Privacy

Who is the Big Brother that we most fear? Is it the NSA -- or is it Google and Facebook? Rapidly changing social mores and the growing problem of cybersecurity have all contributed to a sense that privacy is dead. Laws protecting privacy and civil liberties are stuck in the analog age, while the capabilities for mass digital surveillance continue to advance rapidly. This course will examine a variety of informational privacy and technology issues. A major theme: the historical and contemporary struggle to bring surveillance under democratic control to protect against abuses of privacy, civil liberties and human rights.

CSCI 1870: Cybersecurity Ethics

This timely, topical course offers a comprehensive examination of ethical questions in cybersecurity. These issues pervade numerous, diverse aspects of the economy and society in the Information Age, from human rights to international trade. Students will learn about these topics, beginning first with acquaintance with the dominant ethical frameworks of the 20th and 21st centuries, then employing these frameworks to understand, analyze, and develop solutions for leading ethical problems in cybersecurity. The things that you learn in this course will stay with you and inform your personal and professional lives.

ECON 1500: Current Global Macroeconomic Challenges

Current Global Macroeconomics Challenges will cover issues that include ageing, the underdeveloped world, child access to medical care, health, education and protection, climate change, decolonization, democracy, ending poverty and increasing food sustainability, human rights and gender equality, migration, oceans and the law of the sea, peace and security, population, refugees, water management, and youth. The course will begin with the development of solid economic models to help explain these phenomena and then will move on to examine the impact of various macroeconomic policies on these issues and whether and how they promote global long-term development.