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


Fall 2020 courses focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues

IAPA 1803 Humanitarian Response in Modern Conflict

Visiting Fellow David Polatty 

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.

POLS 1820X: Democratic Erosion 

Robert Blair

This course explores the causes and consequences of democratic erosion in comparative and historical perspective. The course will provide an opportunity for students to engage, critically and carefully, with the claims they have doubtlessly already heard about the state of democracy in the US and Europe; to evaluate whether those claims are valid; and, if they are, to consider strategies for combating democratic erosion here and abroad. The course will be taught simultaneously at roughly two dozen universities, with a number of cross-campus collaborative assignments. Interested students should attend the first day of class to apply for admission.

SOC 1010 Classical Sociological Theory
Patrick Heller 

How is modern society organized? What holds society together and what drives social change? Why is there such a large gap between the "modern" ideal of formal equality and the reality of factual inequality? Why do differences of class, race and gender persist? What is power and who has it? These questions have motivated generations of sociologists, but many of the arguments continue to be informed by the foundational classical theorists: Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and W.E.B Du Bois. Looking at the transformations around them – the rise of capitalism, the modern nation-state, rational bureaucracy, the spread of colonialism, the decline of religion, struggles for emancipation and much more – they developed arguments that allow us to better understand ourselves, our actions, and the contemporary political, economic and social transformations around us. We explore the defining contributions of these theorists and link them to current debates and theories on systemic racism, gender/sex struggles, global inequalities, social movements and democracy.

CSCI 2952V Algorithms for the People
Seny F Kamara

Computer science has transformed every aspect of society, including communication, transportation, commerce, finance, and health. The revolution enabled by computing has been extraordinarily valuable. The largest tech companies generate almost a trillion dollars a year and employ millions of people. But technology does not affect everyone in the same way. In this seminar, we will examine how new technologies, ranging from facial recognition to drones, are affecting marginalized communities.

PHP 2300 Research Methods in Behavioral Science
Don Operario

This course provides students with fundamental principles of behavioral and social research methodology for understanding the determinants of public health problems, and for executing and testing public health interventions. We will focus on experimental methods, observational studies, and qualitative approaches. We will develop skills in understanding and interpreting data--both quantitative and qualitative. Throughout the course we will emphasize ethical, cultural, and professional issues for designing public health interventions. Prior coursework in research methodology and quantitative methods is recommended but not required. Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Enrollment limited to 15.

POLS 1390 Global Governance

Nina Tannenwald

Examines the institutions and the processes by which states and other actors seek to provide "governance" in the international system. The class explores the history of, and various theoretical perspectives on, the role of the UN and other international organizations in the state system. It also considers their roles in a range of political, military, economic, environmental, and humanitarian issues. Pre-requisite: POLS 400. 

POLS 1822U War and Human Rights

Nina Tannenwald

This seminar will begin by studying the rise and spread of the notion of human rights, examining some of the core debates over human rights, including their enforcement in times of war. It will then turn to the laws of war, focusing especially on the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the challenges posed to the Conventions by the rise of non-state actors wielding significant violence. Topics include child soldiers, war crimes, humanitarian intervention, torture, targeted killings, humanitarianism, and the international justice. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors concentrating in Political Science or International Relations.

HIST 1969C Debates in Middle Eastern History

Sreemati Mitter

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).

IAPA 1205 International Law 

Nathaniel A Berman

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.

LACA 1503R Researching Social Movements in Latin America 

Maria Inclan

In this course students will learn about Latin American social movements while conducting research on them. As such, it is a creative course, as it combines social movement theory, Latin American social movements, and students’ creativity to design innovative research projects. We will begin the course reviewing the main social movement theories. Then, we will review basic concepts and research design methods. Third, we will survey the some of the most influential social movements in Latin America in the last 30 years to learn what issues, motivations, and political contexts have mobilized individuals to take up the streets, launch democratizing campaigns, and defend their rights contentiously.

CSCI 1805 Section Computers, Freedom and Privacy

Timothy Edgar 

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.

HMAN 0800B The Art of International Relations

Damien Mahiet

From the ritual handshakes of country leaders to iconic photographs of migrants and refugees, from the use of music in combat and torture to the mobilization of art to make a better world, aesthetics informs the way international actors present themselves, portray the world, perceive others, and conceive of peace, conflict, and war. At the intersection of the humanities and social sciences, this course explores cultural practices constitutive of the diplomatic stage, international society, transnational networks, globalization, and postcoloniality in the 20th and 21st centuries. These include theatre, literature, music, dance, images, film, television, and social media. This course may be counted as a track elective in the security track of the international and public affairs concentration.

IAPA 1200 Foundations of Security

Ivan Michael Arreguin-Toft

This course presents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of security. This means we examine the notion of what constitutes security from a variety of disciplinary perspectives that may not always agree or overlap. Specifically, in addition to political science, the course draws on recent work in evolutionary psychology, biological anthropology and behavioral economics to examine existing problems, issues and questions in security studies. The goal of this course is to investigate the extent to which various disciplinary models and methods can help to further inform or develop the study of security. Substantive applications include a wide variety of empirical methods.

HIST 2980W First Person History in Times of Crisis: Witnessing, Memory, Fiction

Omer Bartov

This seminar examines the relationship between History as a narrative of events and history as individual experience. Postulating that historical events as related by historians were experienced in numerous different ways by their protagonists, the seminar focuses on the complementary and contradictory aspects of this often fraught relationship at times of crisis, especially in war and genocide. While much time will be spent on World War II and the Holocaust, the seminar will engage with other modern wars and genocides across the world. Materials will include eyewitness reports, postwar testimonies and trial records, memoirs and relevant works of fiction. Open to graduate students only. 

PHIL 0200H Contemporary Ethical Issues

Anna Bjurman Pautz

Are we morally obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Do we have moral obligations toward nature, animals and other people, for instance future generations and refugees? Is abortion morally wrong? Is legalization of drugs the right thing to do? In this course we will explore these and other contemporary ethical issues in the context of important moral theories; utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and the social contract theory. This course will serve as an introduction to applied ethics and normative ethics.

HIST 2971U Population Displacements and the Making of the Modern World 

Beshara B Doumani

Forced population displacements have long been an engine for the formation of both the modern world and knowledge regimes about that world. Through the frames of racial capitalism, settler colonial and indigenous studies, and environmental justice scholarship, this course explores the histories, ecologies, and subjectivities of displacement from the 15th century to the present. It also interrogates the epistemological erasures that render certain forms of displacement invisible. Students will lead classes on specific themes and case studies that match their interests.