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


Fall 2022 courses focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues for undergraduate students

PHIL 0200H: Contemporary Ethical Issues

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. Enrollment limited to students with a semester level of 01 or 02.

POLS 1821R: Sovereignty, War, and the Modern International System

How does international law regulate states’ behavior regarding the use of international force? How should international law affect domestic politics and authority? What kinds of international rules, regulations and norms exist? What authority do they have? Should states obey international law even when it conflicts with their interests and that of their citizens? Is a law-governed order attainable in a world of sovereign states? This seminar explores the evolution of international law, its relation to state sovereignty, and how these factors shape the modern international system. Topics will include the historical emergence of sovereignty, the evolution of human rights, the politics of laws governing the resort to the use of international force, and the Responsibility to Protect. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors.

POLS 0010: Introduction to the American Political Process

This course is designed to be an introduction to the American political process, broadly defined. We will cover topics including but not limited to: Constitution, Federalism, Federal Budget, Congress, Presidency, Bureaucracy, Judiciary, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, Public Opinion, Media, Interest Groups, Political Parties, Campaigns, Elections, and Participation.

POLS 0400: Introduction to International Politics

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.

EEPS 1615: Making Connections: The Environmental Policy Process

The diminishing quality of Earth’s systems and resources carries profound implications for the fulfillment of human rights and aspirations. But even as Western knowledge systems understand better the intrinsic interdependencies between humans and the non-human, policy gridlock persists. Indeed, scientific findings are regularly contested on political grounds. The purpose of this course is to learn how to apply diverse knowledges from Indigenous to Modern to map the relevant policy in problems at the intersection of human rights and environmental integrity, and to develop approaches to address them in ways that are creative, effective, responsible and just. Students are admitted in the following order: capstone fulfillment, core requirements, EEPS or ENVS concentrator, and others, in the order received in each category.

POLS 2395: Necessity, Labor, Freedom

Is work a constraint or an act of freedom? Is it the path to self-consciousness or self-abnegation? How do these questions inform normative concerns about the emancipation from work, the role of domestic labor, the right to work, the ideal of a basic income, and the social guarantee of free time? Given that actual work falls far short of the ideal, what is the politics of work? Who should do what to transform or eliminate work? To answer these questions, we begin with readings by figures like Hegel and Hagglund on labor, service and human finitude. We then discuss readings on subjects like the right to work, feminist critiques of domestic labor, universal basic income, and shared labor. Finally, we turn to arguments for self-emancipation – of slaves from slavery, women from housework, wage-workers from capitalist labor. Enrollment is limited to Graduate level 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.

COLT 0510R: War and the Arts: Guantanamo, Twenty Years On

In January 2002, the first captives in the so-called “War on Terror” were flown to the Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for indefinite periods of detention that for some lasted over twenty years. More than a century earlier, in 1901, the Platt Amendment was signed into U.S. law, enabling the lease “in perpetuity” that gives the U.S. military exclusive use of the forty-square mile naval station, despite the Cuban government’s objection. Participants in this seminar will assess the legal and political arguments that have structured “Guantánamo” as an exceptional space, of grave concern to human rights advocates and scholars. At the same time, however, and drawing on poetry, art and memoirs by detainees and military personnel at the base and by Cubans living near its border, we will consider an alternative Guantánamo of sympathies, solidarities and shared space. Enrollment limited to students with a semester level of 01 or 02.

AMST 2221B: Immigration and the Borders of US Empire

Since the founding of the United States, we have debated and struggled over the contours of American nationhood, who may claim the rights and protections provided by the state, and where the boundaries of inclusion/exclusion are drawn. This course will focus on two interrelated themes. The first is the implementation of immigration and nationality controls designed to manage cross-border traffic and restrict membership in the national community. The second is to explore how the projection of US power beyond its territorial borders (e.g. US empire) has fueled cross-border movement between metropole and colonial/postcolonial zones. We will highlight the ways in which the US’s encroachment of borders outside its territorial domain raises important questions about the meaning and legitimacy of national sovereignty and the legal production of immigrant “illegality.” Enrollment is limited to Graduate level students.

HIST 0558C: LatinX Social Movement History

This course examines the history of Latinx social movements and politics during the 20th century into the present moment. Students will learn how various Latinx groups have organized around issues of race, ethnicity, labor, class, immigration, sports, gender, sexuality, citizenship, reproductive rights, and education. We will explore how these groups have utilized social and political organizing to make demands for social justice and equality. By utilizing primary and secondary sources, students will explore major questions, theory, and research methods pertinent to the historical narratives of Latinx people. Students will closely examine the legacy of these social movements and their implications for present-day politics and organizing. Enrollment limited to students with a semester level of 01 or 02.

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.

HIST 1507: American Politics and Culture Since 1945

This course explores the history of the United States between the end of World War II and the present. Major themes and topics include WWII; the rise and decline of New Deal liberalism; the Cold War and anti-communism; mass consumption; race, civil rights and liberation movements; women’s rights and feminism; the New Right; Vietnam and foreign policy; the service economy; immigration; and neoliberalism.

JUDS 1753: Blacks and Jews in American History and Culture

African Americans and American Jews have interacted throughout the history of the United States. Through readings, images, and films, this course will explore this complex, sometimes tortured relationship in its religious, cultural and political aspects. It will discuss the role of Jews in the slave trade, the contributions of both groups to American popular culture, both groups' involvement in the struggle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the rise of Black Power, attitudes to Zionism, affirmative action and more. We will try to answer the question how the experiences of both groups both overlapped and led to conflict.

POLS 1200: Reimagining Capitalism

Debates over capitalism and its alternatives date back centuries. Proponents say that market institutions have enabled extraordinary productivity growth and life-saving innovations. Trade and the division of labor have been central to human progress in recent centuries. Capitalism’s critics point out that the growth of market economies has often had unacceptable consequences. The course is organized around four main challenges facing market economies today: environmental degradation, labor exploitation, inequality, and crisis. Can capitalism be reformed to solve the problems that it has helped generate, or is a market system unequipped to grapple with social and environmental challenges?

POLS 1335: Slavery and Freedom

This course grapples with the problem of slavery and its connection to the political and psychological logic of white supremacy. Students will critically interrogate America’s attempt to grapple with black pain and white guilt. The course will also explore and critically evaluate the various responses African Americans have offered in their quest to realize freedom. We will see that African American political thought is not exclusively a response to social and political domination, but also contains a rich philosophical vision of human fulfillment, self-governance, and the good life.

POLS 1435: Politics of Climate Change

Climate change is arguably the most important global challenge in the 21st century. It will reshape weather patterns, storms, sea levels, and agricultural output worldwide. Mitigating climate change will require massive economic transformations, affecting energy, transportation, and industrial sectors. What are the politics of that transformation? What are the political forces obstructing it? How do social movements, institutions, and economic interests interact to shape the national and global response to climate change? This course offers answers and insights, primarily from the perspective of political science. It also draws on knowledge from other disciplines.

HIST 1080: Humanitarianism and Conflict in Africa

This course focuses on the major issues and debates concerning humanitarianism and international intervention in 20th century Africa. It will explore the history of humanitarianism and the many challenges that arise when governments and institutions intervene in a conflict. Then students will investigate specific sites of conflict in Africa (ranging from Nigeria, Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Western Sahara) and analyze different models of intervention and aid. These case studies will expose students to pivotal events in African history and equip them with a critical vocabulary with which to assess contemporary conflicts.

IAPA 1803: Humanitarian Response in Modern 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.

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. Enrollment limited to students with a semester level of 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 or 13.

ANTH 1310: Global Health: Anthropological Perspectives

This course explores the distinctive contribution that a critical approach—primarily that of medical anthropology—can make to the rapidly changing field of global health. The course takes a problem-based approach and focuses on “grand challenges," such as those posed by global pandemics, humanitarian crisis, or the limited reach of child and maternal health programs in “resource-poor” locations. Through ethnographic case studies, we will examine how the concepts and practices associated with global health interventions travel to different parts of the world and interact with local agendas.

SOC 1128: Migrants, Refugees and the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the deadliest bodies of water on the planet to cross. It is also one of the most frequently crossed for migrants and refugees. This course examines the history, the origins, the destinations, and the definitions of human population flows across the Mediterranean. We will explore push and pull factors as well as sending and host country classifications of people as they cross from one side to the other. We will focus in particular on the tensions between sending and host countries from individual, societal and institutional levels.

PHP 0060: Complexities and Challenges of Global Health

Global health refers to the health and wellbeing of all of the world’s populations, regardless of geography, country, or citizenship. Many of today’s most pressing issues, from climate change to political conflict and population displacement, have profound implications for health. This course will introduce students to fundamental topics in global health, and it will encourage them to approach global health issues through a lens of equity and responsibility toward people and populations beyond United States’ borders. Students will develop a framework for understanding contemporary health challenges and learn how responses to these complex problems require collaboration across health and non-health sectors of society. This course will challenge students’ assumptions about world health while strengthening their skills in data literacy and critical analysis.