Not available in 2013/14
Human Rights, Social Suffering and Justice

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Claire Moon


This course is available on the BSc in Social Policy and Sociology, BSc in Sociology and Diploma in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course as a whole introduces students to philosophical and theoretical approaches to human rights in addition to engaging them with a specific set of empirical problems in the field. The first term engages students with a range of controversies surrounding the nature, justification and practice of human rights. Some of the debates that will be covered over the course of the term include: the proper function of human rights; the appropriate content of human rights; the relevant holders of human rights; how and whether human rights can be justified; the tension between human rights and democracy; the problem of rights conflicts; the relativist challenge to human rights; the Marxist critique of human rights; and the charge that human rights are a form of 'hegemonic power'. The second term moves into a more empirical engagement with human rights as a set of practices and responses to social suffering. It covers human rights and social movements in the post-45 era; explaining mass violations of human rights (the case of genocide); perpetrators, atrocity and obedience to authority; collective trauma and social suffering; bearing witness to suffering (media representations, human rights reporting); and doing justice (international criminal tribunals and truth commissions).


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Indicative reading

M. Freeman, Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach, (Cambridge: Polity, 2002). P. Jones, Rights, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1994). J. Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007). S. Shute & S. Hurley (eds.), On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, (New York: Basic Books, 1993). S. Lukes, Moral Relativism, (London: Profile Books, 2008). S. Cohen, States of Denial (Cambridge: Polity, 2001). Z. Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Cambridge: Polity, 1991). P. Hayner, Unspeakable Truths (London: Routledge, 2001). I. Wilkinson, Suffering: A Sociological Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005).N. Stammers, Human Rights and Social Movements (London: Pluto, 2009).


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information