Michael E. Geyer
5720 S. Woodlawn Ave., Rm. 208
Human Rights Lecturer
5720 S. Woodlawn Ave., Rm. 206
Manager of Operations and Events
5720 S. Woodlawn Ave., Rm. 212
The Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago integrates the exploration of the core questions of human dignity with a critical examination of the institutions designed to promote and protect human rights in the contemporary world. It is an initiative unique among its peers for the interdisciplinary focus its faculty and students bring to bear on these essential matters. The Human Rights curriculum includes a core sequence and an array of elective courses that examine human rights from a variety of disciplinary, thematic, and regional perspectives. The Human Rights Internship Program provides fellowships to students for practical experiences at host organizations in the United States and around the world. Through conferences, workshops, lectures, and film series, the program brings the world to the campus, incorporating the broader community into its educational mission.
Students wishing to pursue a systematic introduction to the study of human rights are encouraged to take the core sequence in Human Rights (HMRT 20100 Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights; HMRT 20200 Human Rights II: History and Theory; and HMRT 20300 Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights). Additional courses provide an in-depth study of various human rights issues from a number of different theoretical perspectives.
Students interested in human rights are also encouraged to attend the Human Rights Workshop. The workshop provides a forum for the ongoing human rights research of faculty and graduate students in a variety of disciplines. Prominent human rights activists, theorists, artists, and faculty from other universities are among the guest speakers at workshops. Offered every quarter, workshop sessions are open to faculty, students, and the public.
The Human Rights Internship Program offers University of Chicago students the opportunity to learn the skills and understand the challenges inherent in putting human rights into practice. The internship program is unique in its flexibility, awarding grants that afford all interns the freedom to explore their interests, whether thematic or regional in focus. The program places more than thirty students each summer with nongovernmental organizations, governmental agencies, and international human rights bodies around the world. The application deadline is in Autumn Quarter. More information is available on the program website at humanrights.uchicago.edu.Back To Top
Students in other fields of study may also complete a minor in human rights.
The minor program in Human Rights is an interdisciplinary plan of study that provides students the opportunity to become familiar with theoretical, historical, and comparative perspectives on human rights. The flexibility of this course of study complements majors in any of the disciplines. A minor in Human Rights will provide a background for graduate study in an appropriate discipline where scholarship can focus on human rights or for careers that incorporate human rights advocacy (e.g., journalism, filmmaking, the practice of law or medicine, teaching, policy analysis, service in government or intergovernmental entities).
The minor requires five courses. At least two of the courses must be selected from the three Human Rights core courses (HMRT 20100 Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights, HMRT 20200 Human Rights II: History and Theory, HMRT 20300 Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights). The remaining courses can be selected from among the Human Rights core and approved upper-level Human Rights courses.
Students must receive the program adviser's approval of the minor program on a form obtained from their College adviser. This form must then be returned to their College adviser by the end of Spring Quarter of their third year.
Courses in the minor program may not be (1) double counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors or (2) counted toward general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.
NOTE: Lists of qualifying courses are prepared both annually and quarterly by the Human Rights Program. For up-to-date information, visit Room 207 at 5720 South Woodlawn Avenue or humanrights.uchicago.edu.Back To Top
HMRT 20100. Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. 100 Units.
Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide. (V) (I)
Instructor(s): D. Holiday Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 30100,PHIL 21700,PHIL 31600,HIST 29301,HIST 39301,INRE 31600,LAWS 41200,MAPH 40000,LLSO 25100
HMRT 20200. Human Rights II: History and Theory. 100 Units.
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 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. Second, it inquires into rights as they affect groups (e.g., ethnicities and, potentially, transnational corporations) or states.
Instructor(s): M. Bradley Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 30200,CRES 29302,HIST 29302,HIST 39302,INRE 31700,JWSC 26602,LAWS 41301,LLSO 27100
HMRT 20300. Human Rights III: Contemporary Issues in Human Rights. 100 Units.
For U.S. students, the study of international human rights is becoming increasingly important, as interest grows regarding questions of justice around the globe. This interdisciplinary course presents a practitioner’s overview of several major contemporary human rights problems as a means to explore the utility of human rights norms and mechanisms, as well as the advocacy roles of civil society organizations, legal and medical professionals, traditional and new media, and social movements. The course may be co-taught by faculty from the Pritzker School of Medicine. Topics may include the prohibition against torture, problems of universalism versus cultural relativism, and the human right to health.
Instructor(s): S. Gzesh Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 30300,HIST 29303,HIST 39303,INRE 31800,LAWS 78201,LLSO 27200
HMRT 20116. Global-Local Politics. 100 Units.
Globalizing and local forces are generating a new politics in the United States and around the world. This course explores this new politics by mapping its emerging elements: the rise of social issues, ethno-religious and regional attachments, environmentalism, gender and life-style identity issues, new social movements, transformed political parties and organized groups, and new efforts to mobilize individual citizens.
Instructor(s): T. Clark Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): SOCI 20116,HMRT 30116,PBPL 27900,SOCI 30116
HMRT 21400. Health and Human Rights. 100 Units.
This course attempts to define health and health care in the context of human rights theory and practice. Does a “right to health” include a “right to health care?” We delineate health care financing in the United States and compare these systems with those of other nations. We explore specific issues of health and medical practice as they interface in areas of global conflict: torture, landmines, and poverty. Readings and discussions explore social determinants of health: housing, educational institutions, employment, and the fraying of social safety nets. We study vulnerable populations: foster children, refugees, and the mentally ill. Lastly, does a right to health include a right to pharmaceuticals? What does the big business of drug research and marketing mean for our own country and the world?
Instructor(s): R. Sherer, E. Lyon Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): MEDC 60405
HMRT 23301. History of Humanitarian Intervention. 100 Units.
The post–Cold War world has been seen a proliferation of so-called humanitarian interventions as well as of doctrines and agreements that guide them. R2P, the Responsibility to Protect, is the most prominent example for the latter. What do we make of these interventions for humanitarian ends? Should we denounce their backers as covert imperialists or their detractors as callous fellow-travelers for genocidaires? Should we give up humanitarian reasoning? There is no self-evident answer. However, there is quite a bit of material to work with. First of all, why this sudden rush toward humanitarian intervention? How do these interventions relate to the older (Cold War) history of (UN) peacekeeping? Second, forced humanitarian interventions have a surprisingly long history that makes a difference, if we want to understand the present. This is a history of interstate protection for (religious) minorities, a history of muscular, imperial meddling in other people's and, especially, in the Ottoman Empire's affairs, a history not least of securitizing relief operations, and only eventually a history of protecting against humanitarian and human rights abuses. In all of these instances it is a history of legitimating violence as the lesser evil in the face of grievous abuses and man-made disasters, which would suggest that the future of global politics is not with peacekeeping, but with internationally sanctioned warmaking.
Instructor(s): M. Geyer Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 22117,HIST 32117,HMRT 33001,LLSO 23402
HMRT 23302. Humanitarianism: History and Theory. 100 Units.
Humanitarianism in its most general form is an ethics of benevolence and sympathy extending universally and impartially to all human beings. Humanitarians understand the world as an affective community and insist that the world can be transformed and, if not transformed, suffering and ill-treatment can be alleviated by fearless vanguards of compassion. Lately, the entire concept has come under attack as deceptive, fraudulent, and useless. If anything, so it is argued, humanitarianism has failed, if it has not actively worsened humanitarian crises. Humanitarians promise relief and deliver a mess; they consort with the worst abusers of human rights; they have never changed anything. Well, one of the questions we will ask is what we make of this critique in light of the historical record. What do humanitarians do? What is their effect and when and where are they effective? Is it true that abolitionists have achieved the abolition of slavery? What about the struggle for social justice? About famine relief? About refugee aid? However, rather than chasing one case after another, we will focus on the humanitarian rationale for action and how it differs from other such rationales, say, Pacifist, Marxist, or liberal rights-based approaches.
Instructor(s): M. Geyer Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 33512,HMRT 33002,LLSO 23114,HIST 23512
HMRT 24701. Human Rights: Alien and Citizen. 100 Units.
This course addresses how international human rights doctrines, conventions, and mechanisms can be used to understand the situation of the “alien” (or foreigner) who has left his or her country of origin to work, seek safe haven, or simply reside in another country. If human rights are universal, human rights are not lost merely by crossing a border. We use an interdisciplinary approach to study concepts of citizenship and statelessness, as well as the human rights of refugees and migratory workers.
Instructor(s): S. Gzesh Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): LACS 25303,LAWS 62401
HMRT 25107. Documentary Production II. 100 Units.
This course focuses on the shaping and crafting of a nonfiction video. Students are expected to write a treatment detailing their project. Production techniques focus on the handheld camera versus tripod, interviewing and microphone placement, and lighting for the interview. Postproduction covers editing techniques and distribution strategies. Students then screen final projects in a public space.
Instructor(s): J. Hoffman Terms Offered: Winter, Spring
Prerequisite(s): CMST 23930 or ARTV 23930.
Note(s): This course meets for two quarters.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 23931,CMST 23931
HMRT 25210. Anthropology of Disability. 100 Units.
This seminar undertakes to explore "disability" from an anthropological perspective that recognizes it as a socially constructed concept with implications for our understanding of fundamental issues about culture, society, and individual differences. We explore a wide range of theoretical, legal, ethical, and policy issues as they relate to the experiences of persons with disabilities, their families, and advocates. The final project is a presentation on the fieldwork.
Instructor(s): M. Fred Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing
Equivalent Course(s): MAPS 36900,ANTH 20405,ANTH 30405,CHDV 30405,HMRT 35210,SOSC 36900
HMRT 26500. Human Rights in Russia and Eurasia. 100 Units.
This course focuses on the political economy of human rights in Russia and Eurasia. We will study how international norms have been “imported” by post-Soviet states. How have regional politics and cultures shaped how rights norms are understood and how they are protected in practice? Why do many post-Soviet countries fail to protect the rights of their citizens? Using knowledge of the history, political culture, and social practices of the region, we will work to identify those rights issues with the most potential for positive change and those more likely to remain enduring problems.
Instructor(s): A. Janco Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 29312,HIST 39313,SLAV 26500,SLAV 36500
HMRT 26700. Civilians and War. 100 Units.
In this course, we will study the history of war and forced migration. We will focus on how particular historical crises have led to the development of human rights protections for people displaced by war. What were these crises and how have they shaped the way we define the rights and status of refugees? How have these conventions been adapted to reflect the challenges of the World Wars, the Cold War, guerrilla warfare, and insurgency? We will study both developments in warfare and strategies for protecting civilians during war.
Instructor(s): A. Janco Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 36700,HIST 29511,HIST 39511
HMRT 26800. Refugee History and Digital Archives. 100 Units.
This course is an advanced seminar in the history of refugees and digital archives. We will study the development of humanitarian and human rights protections for refugees, stateless people, and other categories of displaced persons. We will discuss the various ways that state and non-state actors have understood and justified their responses to the forced movements of people. In class discussion, we will place this historical experience in dialogue with the needs of contemporary humanitarian efforts and human rights organizations. As part of this work, we will discuss the use of digital archives for research as well as the development, creation, and information architecture of digital archival collections.
Instructor(s): A. Janco Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 29311,HIST 39311,HMRT 36800
HMRT 27061. U.S. Legal History. 100 Units.
This course focuses on the connections between law and society in modern America. It explores how legal doctrines and constitutional rules have defined individual rights and social relations in both the public and private spheres. It also examines political struggles that have transformed American law. Topics to be addressed include the meaning of rights; the regulation of property, work, race, and sexual relations; civil disobedience; and legal theory as cultural history. Readings include legal cases, judicial rulings, short stories, and legal and historical scholarship.
Instructor(s): A. Stanley Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): AMER 27605,CRES 27605,GNSE 27605,LLSO 28010,HIST 27605
HMRT 27306. U.S. Women and Gender. 100 Units.
Instructor(s): A. Stanley Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 37306,HMRT 37306,LLSO 27306,HIST 27306
HMRT 28310. Vulnerability and Human Rights. 100 Units.
The course discusses current theories of vulnerability and passivity in relation to human rights. It pays particular attention how human rights and social justice can be thought of in relation to people with severe disabilities, animals, and others who are not traditionally thought of as subjects of justice. We will discuss philosophical texts by Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum and others, and sociological texts by scholars like Bryan Turner and Tom Shakespeare.
Instructor(s): D. Kulick Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 38310,CHDV 26310
HMRT 28602. Health Care and the Limits of State Action. 100 Units.
In a time of great human mobility and weakening state frontiers, epidemic disease is able to travel fast and far, mutate in response to treatment, and defy the institutions invented to keep it under control: quarantine, the cordon sanitaire, immunization, and the management of populations. Public health services in many countries find themselves at a loss in dealing with these outbreaks of disease, a deficiency to which NGOs emerge as a response (an imperfect one to be sure). Through a series of readings in anthropology, sociology, ethics, medicine, and political science, we will attempt to reach an understanding of this crisis of both epidemiological technique and state legitimacy, and to sketch out options.
Instructor(s): E. Lyon, H. Saussy Terms Offered: Winter 2014
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing
Note(s): This course does not meet the requirements for the Biological Sciences major.
Equivalent Course(s): BIOS 29323,BPRO 28600,CMLT 28900
HMRT 29001. The Practice of Human Rights. 100 Units.
The seminar uses an interdisciplinary approach to give students a variety of conceptual frameworks to integrate their field experience into their academic program. Course material focuses on two major aspects of the internship experience: analysis of the work of “social change” organizations and an evaluation of the student’s personal experience. The first half of this course is dedicated to readings and discussion. Students then give presentations that are subject to group critique and discussion.
Instructor(s): S. Gzesh Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Completion of Human Rights Program internship or equivalent experience in a rights-focused advocacy organization and consent of instructor.