Human Rights

Program Director: Rashid Khalidi, P 103, 702-7721
Undergraduate Preceptor: Robert Quinn, P 124, 834-4408

The Human Rights Program does not offer an undergraduate concentration, but it does provide College students with the opportunity to express their interest in human rights issues in a coherent set of courses that links academic knowledge and practice-oriented work. The connection between rigorous academic study and a commitment to human rights work, either as intern or extern, is at the core of the program.

To a large extent, this combination of academic and practice-oriented work reflects the reality of student life and experience. Moreover, the combination of rigorous study and commitment to practical work also serves as a national and international model. This innovative integration of theory and practice is a unique feature of the University of Chicago's Human Rights Program, which has been widely recognized. Most Human Rights Programs have a distinctly (pre-) professional orientation and are typically associated with law schools. The Human Rights Program in the College is rooted in the general education mission of the University of Chicago.

Students wishing to pursue a systematic introduction to the study of human rights are encouraged to take the core sequence in Human Rights (Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights; Human Rights II: Historical Underpinnings of Human Rights; and Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights). This sequence serves as a general introduction to the field. Students may then take additional human-rights related courses in any discipline or field of study, chosen in consultation with the undergraduate preceptor in human rights, all of which supplement the core sequence. These courses provide an in-depth study of various human rights issues.

Participation in an internship in human rights or, alternatively, in volunteer work on human rights related issues is also recommended. The undergraduate preceptor, in consultation with the Director of the Human Rights Program, is responsible for assisting students interested in finding internship and voluntary work, and the program itself has a limited number of fellowships to support such endeavors.

Students may also wish to participate in an undergraduate human rights workshop where both academic and practice-oriented aspects of human rights work will be discussed. Directed by the Undergraduate Preceptor for Human Rights, the workshop will be offered once a year (usually during spring quarter) and will include the preparation of a short research or position paper.


Arjun Appadurai, Samuel N. Harper Professor, Departments of Anthropology and South Asian Languages & Civilizations, and the College

JACQUELINE BHABHA, Lecturer, the Law School; Associate Director, Center for International Studies, Human Rights Program

Carol Breckenridge, Senior Lecturer, Division of the Humanities; Associate Member Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Daniel Brudney, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and the College; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Philosophy

Manuela L. Carneiro da Cunha, Professor, Department of Anthropology and the College

ALAN GEWIRTH, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy

Michael E. Geyer, Professor, Department of History and the College

JACK GOLDSMITH, Professor of Law, the Law School

MICHAEL GREEN, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and the College

SUSAN GZESH, Lecturer in Law, the Law School

Rashid Khalidi, Professor, Departments of History and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations; Director, Center for International Studies

Dr. Robert H. Kirschner, Clinical Associate, Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics, Faculty Committee, and Human Rights Program

Marvin W. Makinen, Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and the College

Mae Ngai, Assistant Professor, Department of History and the College

William Novak, Associate Professor, Department of History and the College

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Professor of Law & Ethics, the Law School, Department of Philosophy, and the Divinity School; Associate, Department of Classical Languages & Literatures

Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Professor, Department of Anthropology and the College

HANS PETER SCHMITZ, Assistant Professor, Human Rights Program

Amy Dru Stanley, Associate Professor, Department of History and the College

Theodore l. Steck, M.D., Professor, Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, Committee on Cell Physiology, and the College; Chairman, Environmental Studies, New College Division

Candace Vogler, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy; Co-Director, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), Committee on General Studies in the Humanities, and the College

IRIS YOUNG, Professor, Department of Political Science and the College


For a description of the numbering guidelines for the following courses, consult the section on reading the catalog on page 15.

The Program in Human Rights prepares both annual and quarterly lists of qualifying courses that are available in P 123 and on the following Web site:

Human Rights Core Sequence

20100/30100. Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights (=GSHU 28700/38700, HIST 29300/39300, HMRT 20100/30100, INRE 31600, LAWS 41200, MAPH 40000, PHIL 31600). This course deals with the philosophical foundations of human rights. The foundations bear on basic conceptual and normative issues. We examine the various meanings and components of human rights and the subjects, objects, and respondents of human rights. We ask questions such as: Who has the rights? What they are rights to? Who has the correlative duties? What methods of argument and implementation are available in this area? The practical implications of these theoretical issues are also explored. M. Green. Autumn.

20200/30200. Human Rights II: Historical Underpinnings of Human Rights (=GSHU 28800/38800, HIST 29400/39400, HMRT 20200/30200, INRE 39400, LAWS 41300). This course is concerned with the theory and the historical evolution of the modern human rights regime. It discusses the emergence of a modern "human rights" culture as a product of the formation and expansion of the system of nation states and the concurrent rise of value-driven social mobilizations. It juxtaposes these western origins with competing non-Western systems of thought and practices on rights. It approaches in this tense context the "universality" of modern human rights norms. The course proceeds to discuss human rights in two prevailing modalities. First, it explores rights as protection of the body and personhood and the modern, Western notion of individualism entailed therein. Second, it inquires into rights as they affect groups (i.e., ethnicities and, potentially, transnational corporations) or states and limit their actions through international agreement (i.e., the genocide convention). M. Geyer. Winter.

20300/30300. Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights (=GSHU 28900/38900, HIST 29500/39500, HMRT 20300/30300, INRE 57900, LAWS 47900, PATH 46500). This course examines the main features of the contemporary human rights system. It covers the major international treaties, and the mechanism, international, regional and national, established to implement them. We also discuss the uses and limitations of the international treaty system, and the relationship between international obligations and domestic implementation. Problems of rights implementation are related to issues of evidence, professional ethics and political feasibility. Legal and medical concepts are applied to topics such as torture, political repression, war crimes and genocide, refugees, women's rights, children's rights, violations of human rights within the United States, and medical ethics. Staff, R. Kirshner. Spring.