TH 584 HUMAN RIGHTS: A common Morality for a diverse and developing world
Spring, 2009, Wednesday, 2:00-3:50 p.m., Cushing Hall 208
This course will be an exploration of the meaning, basis, historical roots, and practical significance of human rights, with special attention given to the questions of the universality of the idea of human rights in the context of religious pluralism, the relation between human rights diverse religious traditions, especially Christianity, and the significance of social and economic rights for response to the reality of poverty in the developing world.
This course will follow a seminar format and will require active engagement of students throughout the course.
The course has two phases. The first phase involves careful reading of some works relevant to the topic of the seminar. All students in the seminar are required to do this reading and to make brief presentations on the reading and on a practical topic related to the issues being considered.
The second phase will be the development, writing, and presentation of a paper related to the topic of the seminar determined in dialogue with the instructor. It will also call for students to read the work of other seminar participants, to offer constructive criticism, and generally to assist one another in producing a written paper of high quality.
1. Completion of assigned readings in advance of class.
2. Participation in all class discussions.
3. 1 page responses to readings assigned for each class. For each class students should
prepare an overview and response to the assigned readings for that day (one
page maximum, in 12 point type), handed in that day. This overview should contain:
(a) the three or four major theses of the readings for the day, stated in complete sentences. A thesis is a direct, simple statement of one of the affirmations being made by the author.
(b) One or two central questions for the author about the significance and truth of the theses advanced by the readings.
One student will be asked to initiate the discussion for that day by giving an oral statement of the theses and questions in the 1 page document prepared. 40% of grade for full set of one page responses, with lowest single grade not counted.
- A presentation of a practical issue. Students working in teams of two or three will make a presentation in class on one of the practical topics indicated on the syllabus. This presentation will be for 15 minutes maximum, and will be followed by class discussion. The assignment of topics will be worked out during the first two weeks of the course and the date for the presentation will be assigned by the instructor. 25% of grade.
- A 10-12 page paper (double-spaced) on a topic to be determined through discussion with the instructor. This paper should directly address one of the topics treated in the course. It should build on the assigned readings and show that the student has a solid grasp of the issues raised by these readings. The professor can suggest supplementary reading that relates these topics to areas of special interest to the student. A one page written proposal should be submitted to the instructor by March 11 and must be approved by the instructor by March 18. The draft of the paper will be presented in class in one of the final three sessions of the course. The professor will assign the date for this presentation by the March 20. The draft paper will be distributed electronically to all class participants by noon of the Friday prior to the presentation. Note: A draft is not the first few pages of a full paper. It should include:
- The title of the paper.
- A statement of the problem to be addressed in the paper. This statement of the problem should indicate the question to which the paper will provide an answer.
- The basic argument of the paper.
- The conclusion.
The oral presentation of the draft will last no more than ten minutes MAXIMUM. The presenter should presume that other seminar participants have read the draft in advance. The professor will select a person from the seminar to respond briefly to this presentation, so all should come prepared to make a brief response to each paper.
The final version of the paper is due on May 4. The oral presentation of the prospectus and draft will last no more than ten minutes MAXIMUM. The presenter should presume that other seminar participants have read the written material in advance. 35% of grade for draft, presentation and final paper.
6. Academic Integrity.
Boston College values the academic integrity of its students and faculty. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the university’s policy on academic integrity: http://www.bc.edu/integrity . If you have any questions, always consult your professor. Violations of academic integrity will be reported to your class dean and judged by the academic integrity committee in your school. If you are found responsible for violating the policy, penalties may include a failing grade as well as possible probation, suspension, or expulsion, depending on the seriousness and circumstances of the violation.
Students may find the following human rights webpages useful:
Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice:
University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts
United Nations, human rights related resources: http://www.un.org/rights
United States Department of State, Human Rights Country Reports:
Foreign Policy magazine's list of internet links on international affairs:
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org
Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org
Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee on Human Rights): http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/
Human Rights Internet: http://www.hri.ca
Foreign Policy magazine's list of internet links on international affairs, including
human rights: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/resources/links.php
International Committee of the Red Cross: http://www.icrc.org
United National High Commissioner for Refugees: http://www.unhcr.ch
Readings marked + are in books available for purchase at the B.C. bookstore and are available on reserve in O'Neill Library.
Some other readings are available in online reserve with the BC Library. To obtain these readings go to the BC Libraries homepage (http://www.bc.edu/libraries/) Then, under “Find Library Materials”, click on “Course Reserves,” and enter Name of Course ("Human Rights") or Name of Instructor ("Hollenbach"), Title of Reading, or Author. You will need a BC user name and password to access these readings. Cross registrants can arrange this through the Office of Student Services in Lyons Hall.
Other readings are available online as indicated in the syllabus, with links provided on the electronic syllabus on the professor’s website. .
Most books on the syllabus are also available on reserve in hard copy in O'Neill Library. It is not required that books be purchased; the reserve shelf or copies from other libraries will help keep student costs down, especially for those books from which only parts are assigned.
1/14 Overview of the course
Video in class: “Enemies of War”
United Nations General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Available online at: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.htmlUnited Nations General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December, 1966, entry into force 23 March 1976, available online at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm
United Nations General Assembly, “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” 16 December 1966, entry into force 3 January 1976, available online at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm
United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 2000, chapter 1, historical landmarks in "The Ongoing Struggle for Human Rights," pp. 27-28. Available online at: http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2000/en/pdf/hdr_2000_ch1.pdf
R. J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations.
World Conference on Human Rights, "Vienna Declaration and Programme of
Action," 25 June 1993. Available online at:
Parliament of the World's Religions, Toward a Global Ethic: An Initial
Declaration (1993). Available online at:
Jean-Paul Marthoz and Joseph Saunders, “Religion and the Human Rights
Movement,” in Human Rights Watch World Report 2005,
available online at: http://hrw.org/wr2k5/
1/21 The drafting of the Universal Declaration
+Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1/28 Historical Approaches in the West—Liberal and Marxist
*John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis, Ind.:Hackett.,1980), chaps I, II (Of the State of Nature), III (Of the State ofWar), IV (Of Slavery), V (Of Property), pp. 7-30. Online reserve.
Ronald Dworkin, “Rights as Trumps,” in Jeremy Waldron, ed., Theories of Rights (Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 153-67. Online reserve.
V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Lenin Anthology (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975), chap. 5, pp. 369-384. Available online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev (Note: only chapter 5 is required reading)
Presentation on a particular NGO and its work (e.g. Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders)
See websites of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.
Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, "Transnational Advocacy Networks in
International and Regional Politics," International Social Science Journal #159,
UNESCO (March 1999): 89-101.
“Transnational Advocacy Networks and International Policy,” website of the Center on
Law and Globalization, at:
2/4 Christian Approaches in Historical context
+Roger Ruston, Human Rights and the Image of God, chaps. 1, 4-10 (pp 1-17; 65-188).
Walter J. Harrelson, The Ten Commandments and Human Rights, Preface, and Parts Two and Three.
Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law and Church Law, 1150-1625.
Brian Tierney, “Religious Rights: An Historical Perspective,” in John Witte and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Religious Perspectives, pp. 17-45.
Presentation: The role of the Catholic church in human rights struggles in a particular country (e.g. Poland, El Salvador, Philippines). See professor for resources.
2/11 SomeRecent Christian approaches
Desmond Tutu, “Preface,” in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. ix-xvi. Online reserve.
David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict: Retrieving and Renewing the Catholic Human Rights Tradition, chap. 2. Online reserve.
J. Bryan Hehir, “Religious Activism for Human Rights: A Christian Case Study,” in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 97-120. Online reserve.
Ignacio Ellacuria, “Human Rights in A Divided Society,” in Alfred Hennelly and John
Langan, eds., Human Rights in the Americas: The Struggle
for Consensus, pp. 52-65. Online reserve.
Charles Villa-Vicencio, “Identity, Difference, and Belonging: Religious and Cultural Rights,” in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 517-538.
Wolfgang Huber, “Human Rights and Biblical Legal Thought,” in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 47-64.
Jürgen Moltmann, On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics, chs.
1 and 2.
David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict: Retrieving and Renewing the Catholic Human Rights Tradition
Max Stackhouse, Creeds, Societies, and Human Rights (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984).
Allen O. Miller, ed., A Christian Declaration on Human Rights (Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977).
Lutheran World Federation, Theological Perspectives on Human Rights
(Geneva: Lutheran World Federation, 1977).
World Council of Churches, Human Rights a Challenge to Theology(Rome: CIIA/WCC, and IDOC International, 1983).
John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), available online at:
Vatican Council II, Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Freedom), available online at:
Pope John Paul II, “Respect for Human Rights: Secret of True Peace,”
World Day of Peace Message, Jan. 1, 1999. Available online at:
Presentation on the ecumenical Christian community's contribution to the struggle for
human rights in South Africa
The Kairos Document, Challenge to the Church: A Theological Comment on the Political Crisis in South Africa (1985), available online at: http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/library-resources/official%20docs/kairos-document.htm
See also for further background: Charles Villa-Vicencio, A Theology of Reconstruction: Nation Building and Human Rights.
John De Gruchy, Christianity and Democracy: A Theology for a Just World Order (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
2/18Developments in Islam
Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, 1990, available online at: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/cairodeclaration.html
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, “Islamic Foundations of Religious Human Rights,” in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver, editors, Religious Human Rights in Global Perspectives: Religious Perspectives. The Hague, Boston, London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996, pp. 337-359. Available online at: http://people.law.emory.edu/~aannaim/pdfiles/dwnld15.pdf
World Islamic Front Statement, “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders,” 23 February 1998 (fatwa issued by Usama bin Laden and his associates). Available online at: http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, “Why Should Muslims Abandon Jihad? Human Rights and the Future of International Law,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 5 (2006) pp. 785 – 797. Available online at: http://people.law.emory.edu/~aannaim/pdfiles/Why_Should.pdf
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Toward and Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties,
Human Rights, and International Law.
Abdullahi A. An-Na'im, “Islamic Foundations of Religious Human Rights,” in Witte and van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 337-359.
Riffat Hassan, “Rights of Women Within Islamic Communities,” in Witte and van der Vyver, eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 361-386.
Donna E. Arzt, “The Treatment of Religious Dissidents Under Classical and
Contemporary Islamic Law, in Witte and van der Vyver, eds.,
Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective, pp. 387-453.
Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights, fourth edition.
Ann Elizabeth Mayer, “Clashing Human Rights Priorities: How the United States and Muslim Countries Selectively Use Provisions of International Human Rights Law,” published in India in 9 Satya Nilayam: Chennai Journal of Intercultural Philosophy 44 (2006): 44-77. Available online at: http://lgst.wharton.upenn.edu/mayera/documents/satyanilayam06.pdf
Presentation on human rights in a setting where Islam is relevant, e.g. Iran, Sudan.
See professor for resources.
2/25 Human Rights and the Issue of TortureConvention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, esp. arts 1-5. Online at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm
Michael Peppard, “The Secret Weapon: Religious Abuse in the ‘War on Terror,’” Commonweal, December 5, 2008): 11-18. Online at: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=2390
Drew Christiansen, “From disciplina to the Day of Pardon,” America, October 2, 2006, 17-19.
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman, US Catholic Bishops Committee on International Policy, Letter to U.S. Senators on Torture, December 17, 2007, online at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/Wenski%20Ltr%20to%20Senate%20re%20Torture%2012-14-07%20LHEAD.pdf
David Luban, “Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb,” 91Virginia Law Review
(October 2005): 1425-1461. Online at:
Jeremy Waldron, “What Can Christian Teaching Add to the Debate about Torture?” Theology Today 63 No. 23 (October 2006): 330-343.
Jean Porter, “Torture and the Christian Conscience: A Response to Jeremy Waldron,” Scottish Journal of Theology 61, 3 (2008): 340–358.
Torture is a Moral Issue: A Catholic Study Guide, available online at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/stoptorture
Presentation: Debates about US Policy regarding torture and interrogation
National Security Archive, The Interrogation Documents: Debating U.S. Policy and Methods. Documents originating from the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department concerning the Administration's interrogation policies. Online at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127Lionel Beehner, “Torture, the United States, and Laws of War,” Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, 2005. Online at http://www.cfr.org/publication/9209 Kenneth Roth, “After Guantánamo: The Case Against Preventive Detention,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2008. Online at: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080501facomment87302/kenneth-roth/after-guant-namo.html?mode=print
Daniel Kanstroom, “On Waterboarding: Legal Interpretation and the Continuing Struggle for Human Rights,” Boston College Third World Law Journal 28, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 269-288. Online at: http://www.bc.edu/schools/law/lawreviews/meta-elements/journals/bctwj/28_2/twlj_28_2_web.pdf
Philippe Sands, Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, 2008.
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, 2007.
Video interview with Jane Mayer on her book The Dark Side, from Democracy Now, online at: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/18/the_dark_side_jane_mayer_on
3/4 No class, spring break
3/11 Developments in Confucian Thought
+William Theodore De Bary, Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian
Presentation on the debate about Asian values and human rights
Fareed Zakaria, “A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 1994, online at: http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/other/culture.html
Kim Dae Jung, “Is Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asia's Anti-Democratic Values,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 1994, online at:
Amartya Sen, “Human Rights and Asian Values:What Lee Kuan Yew and Le Peng Don't Understand about Asia,” The New Republic, July 14, 1997, v. 217 n. 2-3.
China's Charter 08, issued December 10, 2008, trans. by Perry Link, New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 1, January 15, 2009, online at: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22210
3/18 Human Rights and Women’s Rights
+Susan Moller Okin et. al, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?Excerpts will be posted
on Blackboard Vista.
Presentation: an issue regarding the human rights of women, e.g.
Female Genital mutilation:
World Health Organization, Fact sheet N°241, May 2008, Female genital
mutilation, online at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en
Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya, chap. 6, "The Initiation of Boys and Girls," available online at: http://www.fgmnetwork.org/kenyatta/index.html
Stephen A. James, “Reconciling International Human Rights and Cultural Relativism: The Case of Female Circumcision,” Bioethics 8, no. 1 (1994), pp. 1-26.
Martha C. Nussbaum, “Judging Other Cultures: The Case of Genital
Mutilation,” in Sex and Social Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Fuambai Ahmadu, “Rites and Wrongs: An Insider/Outsider Reflects on Power and Excision,” in Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds., Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy and Change (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 2000).
Human trafficking and forced prostitutionUS Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, website at: http://www.state.gov/g/tip
Not For Sale, campaign against trafficking, website at:
US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Response to Human Trafficking, information online at: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/trafficking/usccbresponse.shtml
Allen D. Hertzke, Freeing God’s Children: the Unlikely Alliance for
Global Human Rights, esp. chap.8.
3/25 Human rights in the face of deprivation-reflecting on experience
+Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the
Poor. Preface to the Paperback edition, chaps. 1, 5, 6, 8, and Afterword, pp. xx-xxx, 29-
50, 137-178, 196-256.
` Presentation: a campaign related to economic rights, such as
Jubilee Drop the Debt: http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk or
4/1 Human rights in the face of deprivation-theoretical analysis
+Henry Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence and U.S. Foreign Policy,
second edition (Princeton Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 5-87, 153-180.
R. J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations, chap.8.
United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2000.
Available online at:
Presentation: Initiatives on human rights, development related issues (e.g. structural
adjustment, debt relief, policies governing trade, investment, and loans) and peace.
Pope Benedict XVI, world Day of Peace Message, 1 January, 2009, “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace,” online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20081208_xlii-world-day-peace_en.htmlb
US Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief services global anti-poverty initiative, Catholics Confront Global Poverty. Material available online at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/globalpoverty
Instructor can provide additional bibliography.
4/8 Human rights, humanitarian crises, and refugees
António Guterres, “Millions Uprooted: Saving Refugees and the Displaced,” Foreign
Affairs87.5(Sept.-Oct. 2008):90-99. Online reserve.
1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees available on line at http://www.unhcr.ch/cgibin/texis/vtx/home/+fwwBmeJAIS_wwww3wwwwwwwxFqzvx8n+wwW6mFqhT0yfEhFqA72ZR0gRfZNtFqnp1xczFqn7uFPAFqA72ZR0gRfZNDzmxwwwwwww1Fqn7uFP/opendoc.pdf
Pontifical Council Cor Unum and Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, “Refugees: the Challenge to Solidarity,”1992, available on the internet at this URL:
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (December 2001), Synopsis, and chapters 1, 2. Available in both
HTML and PDF formats on the Commission's website at: http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/iciss-ciise/report-en.asp
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2007 Global Trends:
Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons.
Online at: http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/STATISTICS/4852366f2.pdf
Jonathan Moore, ed., Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention, essays by Hehir, Sahnoun, Anderson, Martin, Goldstone, and Zalaquett
Presentation: Human Rights issues in a particular refugee crisis, e.g. DarfurCouncil on Foreign Relations, resources on Darfur, online at: http://www.cfr.org/issue/publication_list.html?groupby=0&id=73&filter=197 Council on Foreign Relations, Symposium on International Law and Justice, Session Three: The Darfur Case. Video, audio, and transcript on line at: http://www.cfr.org/publication/17515/symposium_on_international_law_and_justice_session_three.html
Francis Mading Deng, “The Impact of State Failure on Migration,” Mediterranean Quarterly, Fall 2004, 16-36. Online at: http://mq.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/15/4/16.pdf
US Catholic Bishops initiatives on Darfur policy. See material online at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/callafrica/sudan.shtml
4/15 Presentation of student papers
4/22 Presentation of student papers
4/29 Presentation of student papers
If necessary, the time assigned for the exam, Monday, May 11, 9-11 a.m., may also be used for the presentation of student papers.