Featured Courses in Human Rights

Courses in human rights are offered in conjunction with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University, the first academic center in the world founded on an interdisciplinary commitment to the study of human rights. Courses include active engagement with the world of human rights practitioners and emphasize the connection between the study and practice of human rights.


This listing represents a sample of courses offered by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights this Summer. See the Human Rights Summer Courses page for the complete list.

Introduction to Human Rights

This course will provide a wide-ranging survey of conceptual foundations and issues in contemporary human rights. The class will examine the philosophical origins of human rights, contemporary debates, the evolution of human rights, key human rights documents, and the questions of human rights enforcement. This course will examine specific civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and various thematic topics in human rights.
see department listings

International Human Rights Law

This course introduces the fundamental concepts and problems of public international law. What are the origins of international law? Is international law really law? Who is governed by it? How are treaties interpreted? What is the relationship between international law and domestic law? We examine the interplay between law and international politics, in particular with reference to international human rights, humanitarian law, the use of force, and international criminal prosecutions. No prior knowledge of international law is required. While the topics are necessarily law-related, the course will assume no prior exposure to legal studies.
see department listings

Human Rights and Global Economic Justice

The world economy is a patchwork of competing and complementary interests among and between governments, corporations, and civil society. These stakeholders at times cooperate and also conflict over issues of global poverty, inequality, and sustainability. What role do human rights play in coordinating the different interests that drive global economic governance? This seminar will introduce students to different structures of global governance for development, trade, labor, finance, the environment, migration, and intellectual property and investigate their relationship with human rights. Students will learn about public, private, and mixed forms of governance, analyze the ethical and strategic perspectives of the various stakeholders and relate them to existing human rights norms. The course will examine the work of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the International Financial Institutions, as well as international corporate and non-governmental initiatives.
see department listings

Human Rights and Visual Culture

This course examines the relationship between visual culture and human rights. It considers a wide range of visual media (photography, painting, sculpture), as well as aspects of visuality (surveillance, profiling). We will use case studies ranging in time from the early modern period (practices in which the body was marked to measure criminality, for example), to the present day. Within this framework, we will study how aspects of visual culture have been used to advocate for human rights, as well as how images and visual regimes have been used to suppress human rights. An important part of the course will be to consider the role played by reception in shaping a discourse around human rights, visuality, and images. Subjects to be addressed include: the nature of evidence; documentation and witness; censorship; iconoclasm; surveillance; profiling; advocacy images; signs on the body; visibility and invisibility.

The New York
City Experience

International House
Visit the United Nations, where decisions of global import take place. Schedule a Speakers Bureau briefing with a U.N. expert and take a tour of the majestic chambers. Multilingual guides will conduct your tour in the language of your choice.

Real and Imagined Bodies
At the Brooklyn Museum, the works on view in I See Myself in You: Selections from the Collection show real and imagined bodies, sometimes in fragments and sometimes whole, and sometimes just the elusive trace of a human presence.

For the Birds
The oldest museum in New York City, the New-York Historical Society features a vast range of American portraits, a legendary folk art collection, and all 435 of John James Audubon’s extant preparatory watercolors for Birds of America.