Simpson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of U.S. History and Foreign
Hist 494/713: Human Rights in History and Practice
Professor Brad Simpson,
Tuesdays, 4:30-7pm, Admin 711
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:30-4pm
Phone number: 410-455-2042
Course Description and Objectives:
This class will examine human rights in modern international history. It will explore the emergence and spread of human rights ideas, institutions, debates and activism from historical, philosophical, legal, and cultural perspectives. Together we will consider the roots of human rights ideas in political theory and philosophy in the pre-20th century period, the emergence of human rights as a transnational idea in the last century, the institutionalization of humans rights norms in the United Nations and other international bodies, debates over the universality of human rights, human rights and U.S. foreign policy and human rights in the context of processes of ‘globalization.’
Each student will write a series of brief arguments and responses to arguments of other scholars, and (as part of their reading) develop a historical project that expresses personal arguments on an important question. Students can develop that project into any one of a variety of possible forms, including a research paper, an article for a news journal, a policy analysis letter to a public official, or a series of Web pages; but all projects must reflect good historical scholarship (more on the project later).
What this course promises you: This class will consider some of the most controversial questions and issues of twentieth century international history - some of them depressing (why do governments torture and commit mass murder?) and some inspiring (what motivates ordinary people to become human rights activists?). You will read scholars debating scholars and learn to analyze disagreements and agreements in a systematic manner. You should emerge from the course with a better understanding of the evolution of human rights, debates over its meaning, the institutionalization of human rights laws and practices, arguments over the universal versus relative nature of rights talk and the U.S. engagement with human rights. You should emerge also with an enhanced ability to analyze arguments and to make tentative judgments about other people's judgments. Ideally, the course will help you become a more critically intelligent, creative, and curious person, the kind of empathetic citizen willing to think actively about and act on behalf of human rights at home and abroad.
If you are concerned about how well you think, you should also be concerned with your ability to write. Learning to write more effectively and logically is learning to think in the same manner. Concepts and thoughts exist in words. If you do not learn tocommunicate in words, you cannot formulate fully developed thoughts and will, instead, live by the vague impressions and emotions that often substitute for ideas.
You are responsible for keeping a copy of each paper or other materials you give me. Do NOT give me your only copy of anything!
Readings and such:
You will want to puchase:
Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen ( Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights)(2003)
Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost:A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1999)
Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy And Latin America(2004)
Lynda S. Bell, Andrew J. Nathan, and Llan Peleg, eds., Negotiating Culture and Human Rights (2001)
Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, (2003)
Next you will want to go to the Blackboard site for this class. Almost all other readings and case studies will be available on blackboard and can be accessed by going to the "Course Documents" section and clicking on each week's readings.
In order to read some of each week's readings you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0, which can read the PDF files online readings will be stored in. All UMBC computers should have Adobe. If you are using your home computer and don't have Adobe, click on this link.
This will be a discussion-based class. Class participants will be responsible for introducing and helping to facilitate discussion on the readings each week. A sign-up sheet will be circulated for students to choose which weeks they would like to lead the discussion. Participants will also write several short take home essays on topics related to the history of human rights thoughts and institutions. Finally, over the course of the semester, students will write a research paper (12-15 pages; 18-20 for graduate students) exploring a question of interest in human rights history and practice. Group projects are encouraged.
CLASS PROJECT SCHEDULE
Discussion Leading Schedule
Remember that you need to begin conceptualizing and researching your paper at the start of the semester in order to bring it to successful fruition by the end. I have provided a few examples of accessible materials you may want to consult in your research on the project page. I also encourage you to consult with me or with a research librarian about specific sources on your topic. The key is to get out and start digging early in the quarter.
Full requirements for the final paper are detailed under the above link. Here I will simply suggest that you work steadily throughout the semester on committing your thoughts to writing. Your paper is the centerpiece of this course and it is expected to be a polished piece of work, so please DO NOT leave it to the last minute!You must complete each step in the class project to pass this course.
All students in this course are expected to abide by the UMBC Code of Student Conduct for Academic Integrity:
"By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC's scholarly community in which everyone's academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal. To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult the UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC Policies section of the UMBC Directory.
The final grade will assess each student's ability--as reflected in written and oral work--to draw and defend historical conclusions, to think historically, and to apply that thinking to the issues raised in the course. This will break down roughly along these lines:
Short essays (including preliminary paper steps): 25%
Class participation: 25%
Class project (Rough and Final Drafts): 50%
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