Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies
Human rights are not fixed. They evolve, in large part in response to what people perceive as threats to their own security. Security too comes with various meanings. It no longer refers just to one’s own physical security or the security of a state; now we are also talking about environmental, food, and border security, to mention but a few.
Across the world, people confront insecurities on a daily basis. In places like South Africa, Ethiopia and Brazil, tens of thousands have been forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for e.g. new roads, condominiums and hydroelectric dams. In Burma, Mexico and many Central American states, millions live under the daily threat of violence, often caught in the crossfire between drug gangs and state security forces. On the Mexican-US border and the seas off Australia, migrants face various threats to their lives and health as they try to make the perilous journey in search for a better life.
People in such situations increasingly make their claims to redress and political change in terms of human rights. In this course we examine how people organise themselves collectively to confront security threats, and how they use rights to make their claims. What rights do they have, and what claims do they make in the name of those rights? If a Brazilian man has his house demolished to make way for a sports stadium, a Burmese woman sees her husband get disabled due to drug violence, or an Eritrean girl loses her parents while crossing the Mediterranean; how do they try to realise their rights? Will they use the formal justice system, or make their claims through alternative justice channels? What tools will they adopt to make their voices heard, and to what effect?
Week 1 (1): Human security and types of insecurity
Week 1 (2): Securitisation
Week 2 (1): Access to justice and legal pluralism
Week 2 (2): Social movements and collective mobilisation for rights
Week 3: Forced evictions and the right to housing
Week 4: Physical violence and the rights to life and to health
Week 5: Cross-border migration and the rights of refugees and other migrants
Week 6 and 7 (1): Problem-based learning exercise
Week 7 (2): Crosscutting themes and debates.
By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
Explain and discuss how ‘rights’ and ‘security’ change in response to evolving circumstances and may be understood differently in different contexts;
Analyse how human rights are used by various groups as part of attempts at social and political transformation;
Compare and elaborate on particular fields of claims-making such as housing politics, drugs policies and drug-related violence, migration and refugee rights;
Demonstrate how theory about security and rights can be used to solve specific problems.
Once available, timetables will be published here.
Mode of instruction
The course will be delivered as a series of seminars in Week 1-7 of the block, two per week so 14 in total. Week 8 is reading week, by the end of which your essay will be due. Seminars will consist of a lecture and various activities, including roundtable debates and a problem-based learning exercise. In the PBL, groups of students will be given two sets of photos and asked to pick one. On the basis of that set, you will identify what the problem is and how to solve it. Each group will then present your problem and solution(s) in class and in a joint paper. Each student will also be expected to reflect on your own process of learning in the course in an online journal.
Essay (the assessment of which will be worth 40% of the overall course grade), due by the end of Week 8;
Essay plan (10%), due by the end of Week 4;
Roundtable debates (10%), to take place in Weeks 2 through 5;
Problem-based learning (PBL) exercise to take place in Weeks 6 and 7, where students will work together in groups and the output will consist of a presentation in class (15% of the overall grade) and a joint paper (15%); and
Individual online journal (10%), opening in Week 4 and to be completed by the end of Week 7.
There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.
Readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.
This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact email@example.com.
Dr Ingrid Samset: