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Human Rights in the Twentieth Century
History 486Q

Catherin Hanf Noren, The Camera of My Family

Catherin Hanf Noren, The Camera of My Family
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976, p.171

Professors J. Quataert

Spring 2000

This course confronts a paradox. The twentieth century has witnessed extraordinary horror, from genocides, colonial, national and world wars, to separatist and irredentist movements, ethnic cleansings and state violence. Simultaneously, it has advanced increasingly universal principles of human rights and established a set of institutional mechanisms for their implementation. The course explores the troubled, uneven and contested nature of this struggle to constitute universal rights in the context of nation-state sovereignty and colonial and imperial histories and legacies. It traces the origins of human rights back to natural rights philosophy (and implementation through citizenship), to the efforts to establish international agreements among nations over war and peace (in the context of imperialism and colonial warfare) and to the declarations of human rights (given abuses by regimes) embodied in UN documents from 1948 on. What constitutes human rights? Who contributes to their definition? How are they grounded--in theory and practice--contested and re-negotiated? What makes up an international community? Readings for the course are nearly exclusively primary documents: natural rights philosophers; the Geneva Conventions; League of Nations documents as well as UN declarations, memoirs and eye-witness accounts. The course will have its own website.


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Last Updated: 8/12/16