SO479      Half Unit
Human Rights and Postcolonial Theory

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Olivia Rutazibwa


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, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Political Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Places are allocated based on a written statement, with priority given to students on the  MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc Culture and Society, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in Political Sociology, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, and MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po).  As demand is typically high, this may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

Drawing on postcolonial theory and critique, decolonial and anticolonial thought and praxis as empirical and analytical tools, this course engages with different actors' and institutions' invocation of human rights across time and space. Engaging with the fields of international relations, foreign policy and social theory, the course explores the use of human rights in the political language of both state actors and many social movements in the arena of social and global justice.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the MT.

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

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

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

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

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

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).


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

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

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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 36

Average class size 2020/21: 18

Controlled access 2020/21: 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