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Democracy, Human Rights and Social Change


Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

  • Students who have been admitted to this course as part of their pre-master programme for the MA in CA-DS

Please see the registration procedure below.


Social movements and collective action have emerged in close connection with the development of structural inequalities, marginalization and exclusion on the one hand and the ideas of rights, social justice and entitlements, on the other. Different groups and organizations have built platforms of solidarity and mobilization to make claims and express their grievances targeting either the state or capital or international institutions. If in the past social movements or collective action have emerged and concentrated protest within nation-states or colonial states, with the increasing interconnectedness of different locations and social spaces, hierarchically or vertically, currently social movements have attained global dimensions. The course will explore these topics through historical and contemporary examples including the civil rights movement in the US, 1960s movements, movements against multilateral organizations and neoliberal globalization, the Arab Spring, the 15 May movement and Occupy. Throughout the term we will not only explore what social movements are doing and why, but we will use these movements as a way into an analysis of the larger political questions of our time by exploring the meanings of notions such as: democracy, human rights, crisis, terrorism, the state, violence and social media.

Course objectives

This course will prepare students to examine and discuss social movements as part of global processes but also as being locally embedded. It will look at how local action is ‘externalized’ to become part of global action; and how global social movements are internalized; and how meanings change as politics of contention experience shifts in scale. By concentrating on specific cases students will learn to analyze the interconnection between cultural, political and social dimensions of social movements. The course also provides grounding in the key theoretical debates generated within different disciplines in the social sciences and the contribution of anthropology to these debates.

Specific learning goals are:

  • To learn about major social movements since the 1950s.

  • To learn how to analyze social movements in their historical and political contexts.

  • To become familiar with key terms in the analysis of social movements (tactics, aims, identity, etc).

  • To learn advanced academic skills, such as: how to read a diversity of texts (academic, journalistic, activist) in different ways; how to identify the key arguments in each text; and how to merge the key arguments of each text into a coherent answer to a given question.

  • To develop a better understanding of the current time period of global political upheaval in which we live.


  • Lectures
    Tuesdays September 10th – November 19th 2013, 10-13 h.
    September 10th: room 1A27
    September 17th and 24th: room 5A42
    October 1st and 8th: room 5A41
    October 15th: room 5A47
    October 22nd: room 5A42
    October 29th, November 5th and 12th: room 5A29
    November 19th: room SA49

Mode of instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • lectures (9 ×1h): 14 sbu

  • seminars (9 ×2h): 36 sbu

  • literature (~750 pages): 126 sbu

  • 4 bi-weekly assignments: 24 sbu

  • Final paper on topic of student’s choice (3.500 words): 80 sbu

Assessment method

Four bi-weekly assignments (60%) and one final paper (40%)


Blackboard module will be active and wil be used for posting the reading list, assignments and other course related information.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

Articles, chapters, books and websites posted on blackboard and in the syllabus.

Books (available in the faculty library):

  • Kurlansky, M. (2005) 1968: The Year That Rocked the World (Random House)

  • Maeckelbergh, M. (2009) The Will of the Many: How the alterglobalization movement is changing the face of democracy (Pluto)

  • Mason, P. (2013) Why it’s Still Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (Verso).


  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme.
    Only those exchange students whose admission to this particular course has already been approved, need to register for this course in Usis and on Blackboard.

  • BA studenten CA-OS van Universiteit Leiden:
    Inschrijving geschiedt via Usis, alleen voor “hoorcollege HC” en “tentamen TEN”. Bij problemen met Usis-inschrijving, raadpleeg de Usis-helpdesk van de FSW.
    Bij aanhoudende problemen, stuur een mailtje naar met het verzoek om je op de deelnemerslijst van de themamodule te zetten.

  • Pre-master students need to have completed their Admission procedure for the master CA-DS. and to be formally admitted to the pre-master programme.

Contact information

Dr. Marianne Maeckelbergh: []( ;) room nr. 3A45 (Pieter de la Court Building)
Consulting hours: Tuesdays 13.00-14.00 h