SO479      Half Unit
Human Rights and Postcolonial Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ayca Cubukcu STC.S113


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy and MSc in Political Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Drawing on postcolonial theory and critique, this course explores how human rights and international law came to be institutionalized in the context of European colonialism, and what the contemporary implications of this historical fact may be today. Engaging with the fields of socio-legal studies, intellectual history and social theory, the course also asks why, and with what consequences, human rights tend to monopolize the political language through which many social movements throughout the world articulate their desires for social and global justice.


This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the LT; teaching arrangements may be adjusted if online teaching is required at any point.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty, and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann In Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Penguin Books Edition).

Talal Asad, On Suicide Bombing (New York: Columbia University Pres, 2007).

Brett Bowden, The Empire of Civilization: The Evolution of an Imperial Idea (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

Partha Chatterjee, The Black Hole Of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (Princeton UP, 2012).

David Harvey, Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

David Kennedy, The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Sven Lindqvist, “Exterminate All the Brutes”: One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide (New York: The New Press, 1996).

Karuna Mantena, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

Joseph Massad, Desiring Arabs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Uday Mehta, Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).


Essay (90%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the second Thursday of Summer Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 30

Average class size 2019/20: 32

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills