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Module details

SC550-7-AU: Sociology of Human Rights

Year: 2015/16
Department: Sociology
Essex credit: 20
ECTS credit: 10
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: No
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No

Supervisor: Professor Lydia Morris  
Teaching Staff: Professor Lydia Morris  
Contact details: Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email: socpgadm (Non essex users should add @essex.ac.uk to create the full email address) 

Module is taught during the following terms

Module Description

This is a 10 week course structured around the following topics:

* Weeks 2-5 Sociology of Human Rights: Theory and Concepts

* Weeks 6-9 The Right to have Rights - citizens and non-citizens

* Weeks 10-11 Methods and conclusion

The primary aim of this course is to examine human rights through the 'sociological imagination', to enable students to understand how human rights practices and institutions are socially created and re-created by human beings.

To achieve this aim, the course will develop three kinds of sociological understandings: historical, critical and cultural:

Historical understanding enables students to appreciate how current practices and institutions are the result of previous processes of social transformation.

Critical understanding enables students to debate what kinds of future social changes are feasible and desirable and how such changes might be brought about.

Cultural understanding enables students to step back from taken-for-granted ethnocentric views of society and to engage in dialogue across cultures.

Students will learn how to apply some of the theories and concepts lying behind these understandings to selected human rights issues. This will involve the use of sociological reasoning in clarifying fundamental debates about the idea of human rights. Particular attention will be paid to the sociology of citizenship, enabling students to understand the complex social relation between human rights and the rights of citizens; to the position of migrants and asylum seekers; to the link between rights and controls; and to the ideal of cosmopolitanism. We will also look at methodological approaches to researching meaning and agency in relation to human rights

Learning and Teaching Methods

This is a 10 week course taught in a two hour session. There will be a lecture of one hour in length, followed by a class discussion. Slides of each lecture will be provided in advance.


100 per cent Coursework Mark

Students taking this course must submit an essay of approximately 3500 - 4000 words.

Other details:
Subject to change

Exam Duration and Period


  • Readings: Students with little prior knowledge of sociology will find it useful to consult one or more of the following general sociology textbooks:
  • Giddens, A. Sociology, 3rd Ed., Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997
  • Macionis, J. and Plummer, K. Sociology: A Global Introduction, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997
  • For a text on Sociology and Human Rights see:
  • Morris, L.D. Rights: Sociological Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2006
  • Morris, L.D. Social Theory and Human Rights, London: Palgrave, 2013
  • All students should read the debate about human rights in the leading journal Sociology:
  • Turner, B. "Outline of a theory of human rights", Sociology, 27(3), 1993: 489-512Turner, B. "A Neo_Hobbesian theory of Human Rights: A Reply to Malcolm Waters", Sociology, 31(3), 1997: 565-571
  • Waters, M."Human Rights and the Universalisation of Interests", sociology, 30(3), 1996: 593-600

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Prof Sasha Roseneil
  • Institution: Birkbeck College
  • Academic Role: Professor of Sociology and Social Theory

Should you have any queries about the Module Directory pages, please contact the Course Record Team, Systems Administration Office, Academic Section; email: crt (non Essex users should add @essex.ac.uk)