nl en

Human Rights and the “Memory of Possibility” after State Terror in Guatemala


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Honours College Humanities Lab.
Students in the first year of their bachelor’s programme who achieve good academic results and are very motivated, may apply for a place in Humanities Lab.


In Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996), a brutal and eventually genocidal state murdered a generation of young leaders working for change and annihilated entire communities, most of them Mayan, in scorched earth wreckage of the highlands. This history was meant to be unknowable, deniable, and forgotten. It turns out that it is not.

This Humanities Lab course involves an interdisciplinary exploration of the multiple ways this period of violence and terror is being unearthed and the “memory work” being done by a new generation of Guatemalans who are recovering histories of opposition and remembering their protagonists. The course aims to open spaces to study a subject with no clear disciplinary boundaries. A wide range of cultural and historical documents can be powerful tools in shaping recollection, and we will draw on these as our teaching materials: art, literature, and film offer impassioned interpretations of events that not only reflect and intervene in the debates of their time, but seek to move their audiences and generate action; official paper trails, witness testimony, and forensic anthropology reveal detail, nuance, and causation, factors that challenge established narratives of the past.

Course objectives

By completing the course, students will

  • Gain knowledge about state violence, human rights, and “memory work” in Guatemala and Latin America more broadly

  • Develop a critical view of interpretive controversies in this field and an awareness of research methodologies

  • Improve discussion skills by taking part in and leading discussion

  • Conduct independent research on a topic related to human rights and memory in Guatemala

  • Be able to communicate research findings through presentations and written work


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

(Guest) Lectures and Seminar

Assessment method


  • Active participation, including leading or co-leading one weekly discussion

  • Short weekly reading responses

  • Research presentation

  • Research paper


  • Active participation, including leading or co-leading one weekly discussion: 20%

  • Short weekly reading responses: 20%

  • Research presentation: 10%

  • Research paper: 50%


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursions, etc.). If you are unable to attend, notify the lecturer (listed in the information bar on the right) in advance. Being absent may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


If the final overall grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), students may resit the final paper. There is no opportunity to resit the other course assignments.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The readings will be made available in the syllabus.


Students participating in this module will be enrolled in MyStudymap by the Education Administration Office of Humanities Lab. Students can register for the Humanities Lab modules about two to three weeks before the start of the module through an online form provided by Umail. On this form students indicate the modules in order of their preference. The coordinators assign students to a module based on their preference and bachelor’s programme, in order to create a diverse group of students and equal amount of students per module Usually students get assigned to the module of their first or second choice.
General information about MyStudymap is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.