85495 - Justice, Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Gustavo Gozzi

  • Learning modules Gustavo Gozzi (Modulo 1)
    Caterina Drigo (Modulo 2)

  • Credits 6

  • SSD SPS/02

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures (Modulo 1)
    Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)

  • Language English

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to analyze the main theoretical approaches to justice, multiculturalism and human rights per se and in their mutual relationships. The course will address and discuss the main contemporary paradigms and doctrines of justice, multiculturalism and human rights, with particular attention to the investigation of the theoretical contradictions that affect their translation into policies and to the analysis of some model/cases of practical application. At the end of the course the student knows the main theoretical approaches to justice, multiculturalism and human rights and he/she is able to critically discuss how their inherent contradictions affect practices and policies.

Course contents

In particular the aim of the course is the analysis of the contemporary theories on multiculturalism and cultural relativism in the frame of the constitutional democracy. In the course one will discuss the questions of multiculturalism and cultural relativism with particular reference to the relationship between collective rights and individual rights, to the problem of value pluralism, to the relation between majority and minorities, to the conditions of integration, to the question of multiplicity of religious identities.

In the frame of this perspective the student will be able of critically considering the interpretative criteria of the complex reality of contemporary multiethnic and multinational States.

The program of the course will consider the following topics:

1. The current theories on human rights. 

2. The theories on multiculturalism and cultural relativism.Some lectures will be devoted to the relationship between multiculturalism and feminism

3. The current debates about justice.

4. Human Dignity

5. Gender Equality

1. The current debates about human rights regard some fundamental questions: the relationship between human rights and dignity; universalism or relativism of human rights; Western and non-Western concepts of human rights; human rights and globalisation.

2. 1. The theories on multiculturalism refer to those societies where there are stable cultural communities that are able to perpetuate themselves. First of all the multiculturalism declares that the guarantee of individual rights depends on a full membership in a respected cultural group.Secondly multiculturalism emphasizes the belief in a value pluralism and in the validity of the diverse values embodied in the practices of different groups. But it is necessary to consider the limits of the acceptance of practices that are in contrast with the principles of the constitutional order that is the ground of the coexistence of the different cultural communities. Moreover the customs and practices of the different groups should be recognized in the law of the State. Finally the multiculturalism requires the existence of a common culture, the culture of "mutual recognition".

2.2 The relativism goes back to Protagora's doctrine, that we mainly know through the criticism expressed by Plato and Aristoteles. We can distinguish a relativism that concerns the facts and a relativism that concerns the values. The first meaning of relativism - about facts -can refer either to criteria on the ground of which a proposition can be considered true, or to the patterns of thought that permit the representation of things (for instance the formulas of chemistry). The second meaning of relativism - about values - can refer either to the relationships between values and social practices, or to the different kinds of cultural realities (actions, histories institutions, practices and so on). To this second meaning of relativism belongs also the relativism as the philosophy of the constitutional multicultural democracy.

3. The questions of justice will be considered according to some perspectives: justice and globalisation; justice and equality; justice as fairness; justice and peoples' law. 

4.- 5. Dr. Caterina Drigo will deliver her lectures on the important topics of human dignity and gender equality referring to a specific bibliography




The students that will attend the lectures have to prepare 3 books, to be freely chosen in the following list: 

2 books freely chosen in bibliography 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3

and 1 book to be chosen in bibliography 4 or 5

The students that will not attend the lectures have to study 4 books, that they can choose in the following list: 3 books freely chosen in bibliography 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3

and 1 book to be chosen in bibliography 4 or 5



1. Bibliography on human rights:

J.-M. Barreto (ed. by), Human Rights from a Third World Perspective: Critique, History and International Law, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

S. Benhabib, The rights of others, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

R. Dworkin, Taking rights seriously, London: Duckworth, 1977.

R. Dworkin, Freedom's Law, Oxford 1999.

D. Kretzmer and E. Klein (eds.), The Concept of Human Dignity in Human Rights Discourse, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2002. 

W. Mignolo, Who speaks for the "human" in Human Rights?, in "Hispanic Issues on line", 5.1 (2009).

Onuma Yastaki, International Law in a Transcivilizational World, Cambridge University Press, 2017 (Chapter 6 - Human Rights).

B. de Sousa Santos, Toward a multicultural Conception oh Human Rights, in “Sociologia del diritto”, 1/1997.

W. Twining, General Jurisprudence. Understanding Law from a Global Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 2009


 2.1. Bibliography on Multiculturalism:

G. Baumann, The multicultural riddle, New York: Routledge, 1999.

P. Berger, G. Davie, E. Fokas, Religious America, Secular Europe?, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008.

D.T. Goldberg (ed.), Multiculturalism, Blackwell, 1995.

W. Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship. A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Clarendon Press, 1995.

J. Habermas, The Inclusion of Others, Cambridge, Mass.: The Mit Press, 1998

S. Huntington, Who are we?, 2004.

M. Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity, 1997.

S.M. Okin, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? ed. by J. Cohen, M. Howard, M.C. Nussbaum. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Onuma Yasuaki, When was the Law of International Society Born?, "Journal of the History of International Law", 2 (2000). 

J. Raz, Multiculturalism: a Liberal Perspective, in “Dissent”, 1994.

A. Sen, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006).

Ch. Taylor, Multiculturalism, Princeton University Press 1994.

J. Tully, Strange Multiplicity, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

M. Walzer, On Toleration, 1997.

2.1. Bibliography on relativism:

S. Benhabib, The claims of culture, Princeton University Press, 2002.

E. De Martino, The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism, Free Association Books, 2005.

G. Devereux, Ethno-psychoanalysis: psychoanalysis and anthropology as complementary frames of reference, University of California Press, Berkeley 1978.

C. Geertz, The interpretation of cultures, New York 1973.

C. Geertz, After the Facts. Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist, Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

J. Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

D. Marconi. Per la verità. Relativismo e filosofia, Torino, Einaudi, 2007.

J. Margolis, The Truth about relativism, Oxford (UK) - Cambridge (Usa), Blackwell, 1981.

Plato's Theory of Knowledge: The Theaetetus and the Sofist of Plato, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1935.

F. Remotti, Relativismo culturale, Enciclopedia delle scienze sociali, 1997.

M. Sahlins, The Western Illusion of Human Nature, 2008.

B. de Sousa Santos, Another Knowledge is Possible. Beyond Northern Epistemologies, London-New York 2008.

B.de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South. Justice against epistemicide, London, Boulder, 2014.

P. Winch, The idea of social science and its relations to philosophy, London 1958.

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, 1953.

3. Bibliography on Justice

R. Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2011

K. Marx, Critica del programma di Gotha, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1968.

J. Rawls, Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory: “The Journal of Philosophy”, n. 9, vol. 77, 1980

J. Rawls, The Law of Peoples, Harvard University Press, 2001

A. Sen, Inequality reexamined, Oxford University Press, 1999.

A. Sen, The idea of justice, London, Allen Lane, 2009.

E. Tourme-Jouannet, What is a Fair International Society?, Oxford and Portland, Hart Publishing, 2013.

M. Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

With reference to the module of Dr. Caterina Drigo on (4.) Human Dignity and (5.) Gender Equality

The students shall prepare:


4. Human Dignity

A. Barack, Human dignity, the constitutional value and the constitutional right, Cambridge univ. press 2015, limited to Part III (human dignity as a constitutional value), parr. 6-7, and Part III (Human dignity as a constitutional right)

C. McCrudden, Human dignity and judicial interpretation of human rights, in M.Tushnet (ed) Comparative constitutional law, vol II, Structures and basic rights, 2017, pp. 579-648, or in The European journal of international law, 19, n. 4, 2008, pp. 655-724

5. Gender equality

H. Irving, (ed), Constitution and gender, E.Elgar, 2017,

limited to 2 of the following

Part II, 5 (W. Lacey, Gender equality: international law and national constitutions- pp. 153,162)

Part III, 8 (V. Jackson, Gender equality, interpretations and feminist pluralism, pp 221-247)

Part III, 9 (S. Millns, Gender and constitutionalism in the European Union, pp 252 -267)

Part. V, 15 (S.H. Williams, Religion, custom and legal pluralism, pp 413 -430)


M. Forowicz, Concepts of substantive gender equality: looking for coherence among regional and international perspectives, in C.M. Buckley, A. Donald, P. Leach (eds), Towards convergence in international human rights law, Brill, 2017, pp. 193-212





Teaching methods

The teaching is delivered on the basis of lectures, but the training of the students is facilitated by continuous discussions during the class time.Also the didactic documents provided by the professor help to favor the learning on the part of the students.

Assessment methods

At the end of the course there will be an oral examination.

The students that will attend the course will have an oral exam on three textbooks. The students that will not attend the course will have an oral exam on four textbooks.

Teaching tools

The students will receive documents useful for the lectures and suggestions about links in the web.

Office hours

See the website of Gustavo Gozzi

See the website of Caterina Drigo