|Unit convenor and teaching staff||
Unit convenor and teaching staff
Contact via firstname.lastname@example.orgCo-convenor
Contact via email@example.com
Admission to MAppAnth or PGDipAppAnth or MDevCult or PGDipDevCult or PGCertDevCult or MPP or PGDipPP or 4cp in ANTH units at 800 level
Co-badged with Anth 718
This unit offers an overview of anthropology of human rights. Human rights, broadly understood, is a field that employs anthropology, especially as many difficult issue for the human rights movement today revolve specifically around cultural diversity, whether multiculturalism is successful, and how to bring about culture change to increase respect for human rights. This unit examines the difficult issues that arise when trying to apply human rights and humanitarian principles across cultures. Although we consider critical perspectives on human rights, we will also focus on how anthropology might contribute to human rights practice around the globe.
Information about important academic dates including deadlines for withdrawing from units are available at http://students.mq.edu.au/student_admin/enrolmentguide/academicdates/
|Research essay||50%||7 June|
|Initial essays||10%||21 March|
Due: 7 June
Your major essay is an original research project and allows you to apply some of the theories and concepts that you have discussed in your proposal to an empirical case study. Assessment criteria for the essay:
The essay must be submitted via turnitin.
(3,000 to 5,000 words)
All students are expected to actively participate in class discussion. There are required readings for each week (available electronically) and you must read these carefully and be prepared to discuss them in class. Each week, one student is asked to introduce some of the key issues that the readings raise.
Before the seminar each week, students are asked to write a one page reading response to one of the required readings. Reading response papers generally need to contain the following elements:
Participation is assessed in terms of demonstration of engagement with the readings and the implications for the topics discussed in the seminar. The quality of contributions is far more important than quantity. Repeated comments that are off-topic and do not demonstrate an engagement with the unit material will not be rewarded with any marks and may even be penalised.
Due: 16 May
A media watch portfolio is a collection of texts, images or notes from the media, collected over the semester, with commentary by the student. Portfolios are evaluated on the degree to which students are able to incorporate core concepts from readings and seminar discussions into analysis of news events and current events. Student marks will be assessed on the accuracy, sophistication, and rigorousness of the connections drawn between the readings from the unit and the texts found by the student.
Commentary should be typed to accompany clippings, either alone or in groups, collected into a single electronic document. The convenors will review portfolios in week six to make sure that students are on the right track. Over the course of the semester, the instructor would expect a portfolio to contain at least 20 electronic ‘clippings’ or items and at least 2000 words of commentary.
A crucial set of questions to ask yourself as you write commentary is, what assumptions are the writers making about human rights, about the people who are the perpetrators and victims, about the interpretation of a specific right, and about the nature of cultural difference in these discussions. Students who have done portfolios may be asked to talk about them in class if the convenor thinks a particular discussion should be shared. We also strongly recommend sharing links from your clippings online through the iLearn discussion boards; not only are you more likely to see interesting things, but we encourage sharpening discussion through sharing.
This assessment task is intended to prepare students better for discussing and commenting upon current human rights-related issues, preparing them better for careers in policy, activism, and public service.
Due: 21 March
Students are required to submit, during two of the first four weeks of class, a short, one-page response to one or more of the readings. These responses will primarily be used to help students to address writing issues that may prove a much more serious problem on the final research essay.
These essays must be submitted through Turnitin.
All required readings and ‘optional’ background readings are included in a course reader which is available for purchase at the University’s book store. Students are expected to have read all the required readings for each meeting of the class on which they are listed as being subject to discussion. Persistent failure to demonstrate awareness of and familiarity with the topics in the reading is not acceptable, although the instructor does understand the exigencies of studying while working and family-related conflicts. Please make every effort to do the reading for the seminar meeting in which it will be discussed as your ability to participate and the outcome of the unit depends upon active engagement.
Every effort has been made to acquire copies of material on the extended supplementary bibliography, but that has not always been possible due to the library’s purchasing policy and holdings. If students are looking for additional readings and having any difficulties, please contact the convenor. For the purposes of this unit, students are encouraged to make use of outside resources for their research projects, but please see the note below on research resources.
Additional resources will be made available on-line through the unit's iLearn website. This will include primary documents (such as original human rights documents), links to organizations working specifically on the various topics, and other resources.
The course this year is making more use of online resources and will be co-convened by two instructors, in a change from previous years.
For those students particularly interested in this material, you are welcome to attend one of the co-convenor’s lectures in Anthropology 323, ‘Culture & Human Rights’. The topics in that unit are not identical with ours (especially in the last four weeks). Please talk with the convenors to get a lecture schedule or consult the online Units database at mq.edu.au.
The undergraduate lectures meet from 9-11 am Fridays, in room W5C 320.
In the introductory session, we will discuss the overall agenda for the unit. In particular, we will introduce the problems anthropologists have had in the past dealing with human rights in spite of the fact that the field has long been dedicated to recognition of minority groups and the value of marginalized people, one of the principle agendas of the human rights movement. In fact, one of the reasons for the changing relationship of human rights to anthropology is the relative youth of the human rights movement. The first human rights documents of the modern era are less than sixty years old, and they are understood very differently now than they were when they were first written. The introductory session will offer a brief background to the history and development of human rights and the notion of ‘economic development’ in the wake of colonialism, but we will also talk about the roots of human rights thinking in various world traditions.
Anthropologists have had a changing relationship with human rights, one that definitely got off on the wrong foot. From the onset of the modern human rights movement, many anthropologists perceived a contradiction between their ‘cultural relativism’ and the universalist language in which human rights documents were drafted. Anthropologists have struggled long and hard with the implications of human rights, and their discussions have had an effect both on the field of anthropology and the practice of human rights.
During this week’s discussion, we will scratch the surface of a huge, contentious literature on the relationship between relativism and universalism in the anthropology of human rights. We will begin the semester-long discussion of the pitfalls and practicalities of this intersection by discussing it in theoretical terms, turning to the history of both anthropology and human rights. How do we understand ‘culture’ in respect to rights? What role does respect for cultural diversity play in the campaign for increased respect for human rights? Does the use of human rights as a tool by anthropologists rebound back upon the field and affect what anthropologists do? Have the two streams of thought come to any sort of working agreement on how they might cooperate?
In fact, anthropologists have a long history of advocating for marginalized people, of drawing attention to structural violence, and of attempting to redress basic injustice, including racism and other forms of prejudice. And yet many anthropologists are still uncomfortable with human rights, in spite of the fact that we are surrounded by the modern movement for these rights.
In order to think more deeply about the problems confronting any attempt to define universal values, we will examine the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This curb upon torture and inhumane treatment of an individual is probably the most basic human rights restraint upon the power of the state. But what sorts of punishment does it actually ban? Can there, in fact, be a clear standard of what would constitute an offense, or does the wording simply defer crucial questions? Should there be a clear definition of what constitutes torture? Should any ban be unconditional, or might there be situations in which a state might legitimately punish someone in a way that other societies might find cruel? And why should this particular offense be singled out as demanding strong enforcement?
This week considers the case of torture and punishment in light of some of the most difficult cases, such as the death penalty, treatment of children, torture of terrorism suspects, Shari’a-based arguments for corporal punishment, and blind spots in the human rights community’s attempts to address violations of this principle. We will read one of the leading liberal Muslim scholars on his pragmatic approach to fighting cruel punishment and a prominent anthropological critic of the West and its universalizing assumptions about human nature. These two readings are not merely contrasting perspectives; they are demonstrations of different ways to think about human rights-related theoretical problems.
One area for innovative research in anthropology, a field of study with broad implications, is the study of cultures of violence and the effects of human rights violations on society more broadly. Although the cost of human rights violations in terms of direct human suffering is already massive and difficult to calculate, this anthropological research into the long-term effects of systematic violence on those who suffer it, those who commit it, or simply those who witness from the sidelines, helps us to better understand the sorts of social and cultural effects of violence that can lead to cycles of suffering. This week we will consider human rights violations as social and cultural forces by looking at the effects of repressive regimes that committed massive human rights violations over long periods of time, specifically in Central and Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Our goal is not to explain away or justify human rights violations but to understand the social, political, cultural and psychological dynamics that can lead to mounting violations. In essence, we will be exploring the role of human rights violations in shaping culture and society, including long-term traumatic effects on victims, violators, and bystanders. In particular, we will look at Argentina, Guatemala, and Cambodia.
After a society has passed through a conflict or oppressive regime, how does it go about recovering? What models exist for seeking justice, vengeance, truth, or reconciliation after massive human rights violations? There are many post-conflict strategies, including general amnesties, large-scale trials, local courts, truth and reconciliation commissions, investigations and public accountings for crimes, and other institutional models, as well as cases where societies have undergone no post-conflict processes of justice or reconciliation. Anthropologists have become directly involved in some of these processes, including both justice-based and reconciliation formats for seeking restoration of society; for example, anthropologists have become directly involved in truth commissions in Argentina and Guatemala. While many models of social healing and justice seeking may make sense in abstraction, what does the experience of using different approaches tell us about the challenges and obstacles of recovery for a society? Ethnographic research provides an excellent tool for assessing the effects of these diverse processes, just as it sometimes becomes a tool for carrying them out.
This week, we will look closely at concrete experiences of societies responding in the wake of massive human rights violations, especially in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. We will discuss the various models of post-conflict accounting, their different strengths and weaknesses, as we seek to better understand the practical needs of social healing as well as the abstract demand for justice.
6. Economic and social justice: the ‘Asian Challenge’
Since the fall of the Soviet Bloc, the primary fault lines of disagreement over human rights have shifted. Whereas Eastern and Western powers once argued over the preeminence of civil or socio-economic rights, liberal or socialist values, now some Asian commentators have argued that their situation demands a different approach to human rights. Called the ‘Asian Challenge’ by human rights scholars, this movement has argued that social and economic rights must take precedence over narrow political or civil rights when a country is undergoing development; food is more important than freedom, to put it simply. The Asian Challenge is one of the most important examples of an attempt to argue for a cultural exemption from human rights requirements.
This week we will talk about socio-economic rights, the so-called ‘second generation’ of human rights, and their evocation by some critics of human rights advocates in Asia. We will read an interview with Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, one of the leading advocates of an ‘Asian’ approach to human rights (along with Mohamad Mahathir of Malaysia) and critic of Western human rights discourse. This discussion will be a way of thinking specifically about the ‘Asian challenge’ but also more broadly about the issue of socio-economic rights and the role of culture in discussions of human rights.
Perhaps the area of human rights law that anthropologists have had the most to say about is the rights of Indigenous peoples (only women’s rights are a close contender). Because of anthropologists special relationship with Indigenous peoples, they have been deeply involved in the rise of Indigenous rights as an international movement. The fact that a very strong, vital, and innovative Indigenous rights movement has emerged, however, does not mean that the relationship between anthropologists and advocates is a simple one, as this week’s readings suggest.
Since the advent of the nation state, respect for minority groups within states has typically been conditioned upon those groups’ willingness to conform to majority standards and to cooperate in national goals. Indigenous peoples have borne the brunt of this ‘conditional’ approach to citizens’ rights and have suffered some of the most brutal, unrelenting campaigns of genocide, even though they have lived in some of the earliest ‘liberal’ democracies. Although the earliest human rights documents enshrined the right to self-determination, a tradition of considering collective rights did not really develop until the ‘third generation’ of human rights reforms.
Recognizing collective rights to self-determination by indigenous peoples seems to pose intractable problems for modern states: How might they atone for treaty violations, massive human rights violations, or even genocide during colonization or in generations past? What happens when the good of the minority seems to stand in the way of other goals, such as economic development? Does the right to self-determination trump other legal guarantees, including individuals’ rights, if an indigenous group wants to preserve a ‘tradition’? Must respect for cultural difference extend to respect for traditional forms of discrimination or domination?
Throughout the world, struggles for indigenous rights have frequently centered around control over land. In many nations, including Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Latin American countries, a long history of negotiating with indigenous peoples (including treaty violations) established legal precedents for rights to land. In Australia, however, colonial opportunism created no such precedent, officially insisting that Australia was terra nullius, empty land for the taking when it was settled by Europeans. In the Mabo v Queensland (No 2) decision of 1992, a new precedent was set for Aboriginal territorial rights in Australia, one that is still being widely debated in both court and public opinion. The justices found that Aboriginal land rights were not automatically extinguished by colonists’ assertions that the indigenous Australians had no rights; instead, the courts found clear precedents in Common Law for Aboriginal land rights. The resulting land rights claims have led to the creation of new institutions, including the Australian Native Title Tribune, and has even led Australian Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, to declare a ‘shortage of anthropologists’, perhaps the first time in history that this phrase has been uttered.
This week we will discuss the reasoning behind both assertions of land rights and their denial, the current situation of Aboriginal land rights, and the effect on the community, both Aboriginal and Australian more broadly, of the recognition for land rights. Land rights are a classic example of collective, or ‘third generation’, rights, linked to a community rather than to specific individuals; we will ask whether community rights make for healthy communities in part by comparing the Australian experience to others around the world. In addition, we will try to consider some of the practical problems faced by anthropologists who get involved in land rights cases in Australia.
Women’s rights are an area where the regime of individual protection attempts to extend its influence into some of the most intimate areas of social life. If the ‘first generation’ of rights dealt primarily with the state’s treatment of individuals, this ‘fourth generation’ asks questions about justice that extend into the household, personal relationships, treatment of children, and culture itself. Perhaps not surprisingly, women’s rights have been one area where a range of political actors have expressed reservations about human rights documents; one need only review the extremely long list of Declarations and Reservations attached to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to see the controversial nature of some basic assertions of women’s equality.
As Richard Wilson and others have pointed out, feminists themselves (including feminist anthropologists) are divided on the issue of human rights. Many activists see the assertion of universal women’s rights as fundamental in the struggle against sexism, prejudice, inequality, and domestic violence globally. For these feminists, cultural practices that they find prejudicial to women, such as the veil, female circumcision, dowries, early marriage, or prohibitions on birth control, must necessarily be opposed. Other feminist anthropologists, more suspicious of claims by one group to know what another really needs for its liberation, are more ambivalent about these sorts of interventions from abroad.
This week, we will take as our case study the practice of female genital surgery in Africa (and, to a lesser degree, in Asia), one of the examples where respect for cultural diversity seems to be most severely tested. We will try to tackle some of the complex issues relating to the debate about universal feminist rights, to the complexity of changing such intimate cultural practices, and to the views of women living within societies where the practice is widespread.
Although it would seem to be straightforward, what exactly should be done in situations of severe poverty or social problems is not always immediately clear. In more typical development situations, where no crisis is pressing, the agenda for aid may be even less clear. Anthropologists who study international aid have found that donors often have extremely incomplete understandings of how their projects are actually affecting people on the ground in various sites. How one would judge ‘success’ given this opacity, and the diverse ways in which people use, avoid, intercept, or even hijack humanitarian aid, is a lot more difficult than some observers initially assume.
During this week, we will look seriously at two case studies of the effect of aid on local communities, and one critic of the human rights movement who argues that the effect of this movement is often contrary to human welfare. We will take seriously pragmatic questions about translating intentions into institutions, of the often complicated relationship between causes and consequences in human social life. In particular, we will focus on how organizations think about their goals and accomplishments, and how this vision of the way that the world can be improved affects their actual performance.
After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, especially as the Cold War took hold of the Western imagination, few people might have imagined that the world would intervene to stop human rights violations without the pretense being a thin veil for other, more selfish motives. In the wake of interventions in Kosovo, and the global outcry after the West’s failure to intervene in Rwanda (and in Darfur, at the moment), some theorists are actually beginning to consider what intervention on behalf of human rights might look like and whether or not it might be reasonable to use force to protect rights.
In this week, we will consider both the theory of humanitarian intervention and several cases of intervention—specifically in Afghanistan and in Thailand—to ask how that intervention might look and what would be required for it to function in the interests of those whose rights are being disrespected. One thing that becomes clear in this study is that intervention says as much about the cultural values and social forces of those intervening as it does about the severity or conditions of those who are being ‘rescued’. We will try to consider both the sources of skepticism and the possibility of successful intervention.
International aid does not flow without friction into the targeted areas; it has unintended effects as it cascades through channels, some new and some quite old, toward its intended targets. The same economic forces that created the poverty or social problem that aid seeks to redress also affects the tools at one’s disposal to work for change.
This week we will look at several different case studies of aid to think about the unintended social effects of humanitarian assistance, especially the creation of a local ‘aid industry.’ We will examine the unforeseen challenges to the increased spending on health provoked by the AIDS epidemic and the effects on social structure and culture brought about by the involvement of the U.S. in El Salvador. One article looks more at unintended effects to the health industries of spending, including the targeting of aid to particular diseases; the other article focuses more on the cultural and psychological effects of aid on local elites who are central to the aid industry. What we will find is that aid itself becomes a social force, changing the conditions that it seeks to address not simply by ‘improving’ the condition of those in need. Can these social effects be anticipated or are they always and innately unforeseen?
We will explore a method to model social processes on different levels of causation in the work of Peter Taylor, an ecological mathematician who has been involved in attempts to model complex systems, such as environmental degradation and long-term mental health. Through ‘Taylor Diagramming’, we will attempt to anticipate indirect consequences of aid in ecological, economic, social, and other spheres of human activity.
During this week’s seminar, we will discuss the roles that ethnography might serve in the process of humanitarian aid. Jean-Klein and Riles argue that anthropology has tended to be engaged with aid in one of two roles: either in ‘co-construction’ alongside the ‘victims’ of social processes or in ‘denunciation’ of oppressive regimes. In fact, ethnography enters into human rights practice in a number of ways, and at different moments: in the process of defining human rights, recognizing infringements, recording violations, assembling cases against offenders, and seeking redress.
Anthropologists may take different roles in the process of enforcing human rights; we will consider three moments in greater detail: publicizing of violations, the implementation of policy, and the creation of greater self-awareness within human rights institutions. In fact, there are other ways that ethnography might serve to improve human rights-related practices, institutions, and legislations, but focusing on these three helps us to understand better the constructive role ethnography might play.
In addition, we will ask how the engagement with human rights has affected anthropological theory and work. Typically, we think of justifying anthropology on the basis of its contribution to human rights, but how might discussions of human rights contribute to the intellectual goals of anthropologists?
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Assessment Policy http://www.mq.edu.au/policy/docs/assessment/policy.html
Grading Policy http://www.mq.edu.au/policy/docs/grading/policy.html
Grade Appeal Policy http://www.mq.edu.au/policy/docs/gradeappeal/policy.html
Grievance Management Policy http://mq.edu.au/policy/docs/grievance_management/policy.html
Special Consideration Policy http://www.mq.edu.au/policy/docs/special_consideration/policy.html
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