The History and Practice of Human Rights Podcast

This course from Thomas Laquer offers a broad survey of the philosophical, legal and historical origins of human rights in the eighteenth century—natural rights theory, new constitutions, and the international anti-slavery and anti-torture movements—and examines how and why it burgeoned into what is arguably the dominant language of international and domestic politics all over the world in the late late twentieth and the twenty-first century. Almost all rights and almost all claims for distributive justice are today expressed as human rights. We will examine the gnarled history of, as well as contemporary controversies in, specific areas such as the laws of war and the rights of civilians, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of torture, the definition and prevention of genocide, and the rights of various groups, including indigenous people, women, children, and sexual minorities. We will also deal throughout the course with more general questions: universal rights vs. local custom; political and civil vs. human rights; majority vs. minority rights; and whether human rights is "western" and if so why this might matter.

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