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Causes Beyond Borders: Human Rights Activism and Global Governance

Semester and Year FA 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1971
Section 001
Instructor Vasuki Nesiah
Days W
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 2
Level U
Requirement   SOC, GLOBAL


This 2-unit course meets during the first seven weeks only, First Class: Sept. 5; Last Class: Oct. 17.


One of the most distinctive dimensions of contemporary globalization has been the flourishing of transnational activism. Causes, organizations and activist networks have crossed borders alongside capital, goods and labor to reshape the terrain of political engagement. In some cases the campaigners are crossing borders, in other cases local activists are translating their issues into a register that can travel. This class examines the intended and unintended consequences of this turn to transnational activism in relation to the political subjectivities it calls forth, the political horizons it shapes and the global governance regimes it legitimizes. The course will focus on human rights and humanitarian initiatives, including transantionational campaigns (such as campaigns to ‘Save girls from Boko Haram’ or 'End sweatshops in Bangladesh'). In studying the work of international institutions (be it non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International or multilateral institutions such as the International Criminal Court), we will also look at the new constellations of state-actors, international agencies and civil society that have come together in invoking the language of human rights in the name of agendas such as democracy promotion or ending poverty. Reading important critical interventions of the last decade, the class will collectively analyze how different approaches mobilize and challenge different actors, causes and alternative imaginings of 'the global'. Readings are likely to draw from Lori Allen, Harry Englund, Nicholus Guilhot, Sydney Tarrow, Clifford Bob, Kathryin Sikkink, Sally Merry, Stephen Hopgood, Daniel Bell, Catherine MacKinnon, Joseph Slaughter, Mahmoud Mamdani, Michael Barnett, Kamari Clark, Monika Kruas, Manuel Castells, Wendy Hesford and Valerie Sperling.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)