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IR4532   The Cultural Politics of Human Rights

Academic year(s): 2023-2024

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 30

ECTS credits : 15

Level : SCQF level 10

Semester: 1

Availability restrictions: Not automatically available to General Degree students

Planned timetable: Mon 12 noon

There are more people than ever before who believe strongly in the necessity of the inclusion of human rights considerations when thinking about actions at every level of societal interaction; personal, local, national and international. The use of the concept is, however, frequently misused and the outcome of rights campaigns is often far from the original intention. In exploring these complex issues the module is divided into two parts. In PART I the long-standing and polarising debate between liberal and Marxian theories regarding the role of the concept of human rights in society will be examined. Many theorists are now attempting to go beyond this divide to think through the potential for the concept in the process of social transformation. The social constructionist and neo-Gramscian approaches to the conceptualisation of human rights will be introduced. Drawing on this theoretical discussion a series of contemporary issues will be explored in PART II and the focus will be on suitability of the concept in any programme of social transformation by considering the role - nationally and internationally - of the legal system, economic relations, government and non-government organisations.

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass IR2006

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 1 x 1-hour lecture (x 10 weeks), 1 x 1-hour tutorial (x 10 weeks), 2 consultation hours with Coordinator (x 12 weeks). 2 hours examination feedback in week 1 of following semester.

Scheduled learning hours: 46

Guided independent study hours: 254

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 3-hour Written Examination = 50%, Coursework = 50%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 50%
Practical examinations : 0%
Coursework: 50%

Re-assessment: 3-hour Written Examination = 50%, Coursework = 50%


Module teaching staff: To be confirmed

Intended learning outcomes

  • To explore the genesis of human rights;
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of competing arguments that centre on the politics of human rights;
  • To consider the political implications of various human rights perspectives;
  • To critically explore the theory and practice of human rights, by utilising a social constructionist account of human rights and power and postcolonialism.