ATS2334 - Human rights discourse: A practical and conceptual history - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit


Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Alison Ross


Associate Professor Alison Ross

Not offered in 2018


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units.


Most people are familiar with the concept and language of human rights. But what is the origin of the contemporary conception and practice of human rights?. Does it come from the French Revolution?. Early modern philosophy?. Or does our current understanding of human rights have a more recent origin?. This unit will introduce students to debates about the history of human rights as a recognisable political discourse. We will consider the burgeoning literature that views human rights discourse as a specifically post-World War II tool for the justification of military and civil intervention. We will identify the historical background for the use of human rights discourse in an analysis of specific cases of humanitarian intervention. We will also consider the implication of the interest of NGOs in critical scholarship on 'human rights discourse' and examine how this affects their operations and advocacy.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. engage with debates about the history of the concept of human rights;
  2. recognise and discuss the potentially controversial implications of political applications of human rights discourse;
  3. identify relevant literature for critical debates on the terminology of human rights discourse;
  4. undertake independent research and critical reading to construct an analysis of the scholarship;
  5. utilise written and oral communication skills to present argument.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study