70248 - Sociology of Human Rights

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The course proposes to explore the theme of human rights from a sociological perspective. Human rights will be discussed from their forceful emergence the postwar era onwards, and themes such as citizenship, migration, security, counter-terrorism, minority rights, religion, and populism will be discussed. At the end of the course, the student will have acquired a capacity for critical analysis with regard to the field of human rights, and with interdisciplinary knowledge as well as a sensibility for the transnational dimension of human rights.

Course contents

We are living in an age of rights. In Europe, human rights seem to constitute a 'ius commune'. The course explores the post-1945 emergence, the complex justification and usage of rights, from an interdisciplinary, in particular sociological, perspective.

The course provides an interdiscplinary – in particular a novel, sociological - focus on human rights. It explores and explains the complex European situation of overlapping rights regimes and their role and function in European societies. In changing societies, it seems that human rights have become a far more prominent feature of the social and political landscape than in the past. Human rights seem to bypass domestic democratic orders by providing an external benchmark. Human rights seem to increasingly constitute a 'ius commune' underlying EU law and norms originally derived from the post-1945 conventions on rights and solidified through the Charter of Fundamental Rights form a common quasi-constitutional bedrock for polity building and legislation throughout Europe. The course explores the historical emergence, the current prominence, the complex nature, and the application of rights, in particular in the multi-level and pluralist context of the European Union. A distinct focus will be how rights are (increasingly?) being used by social movements to further particular claims. A wealth of examples will used regarding rights application as well as rights claims by (transnational) social movements (regarding inter alia resistance to totalitarian regimes, human trafficking, migration, sex workers, religious identity, anti-racism).

The course explores the emergence of rights in a historical context, their contemporary prominence, the complex and conflictual nature of human rights, and their application, on different and plural levels in the European context. Key questions are: to what extent are human rights capable of promoting justice, equality, participation, inclusion and recognition? Are human rights accessible to all, or are there important forms of exclusion? How are rights constructed and interpreted, to which extent is the context important, and what different interpretations and framings do we encounter in socio-political practice? Which contestations of human rights do we see today?



1. Sociology of human rights

2. Sociology of human rights

3. Political Theory

4. Political Theory

5. The European Convention

6. The European Convention

7. European Union

8. European Union

9. Central Europe

10. Central Europe

11. Social movements

12. Social movements

13. Citizens

14. Citizens

15. Gender

16. Migration

17. Security

18. Internet

19. Global society

20. Conclusions


Testo principale

1) P. Blokker/L. Guercio (2020), Sociologia dei Diritti Umani, Mondadori.


Ulteriori testi

1) N. Bobbio (1990), L’età dei diritti, Einaudi, Torino.

2) S. Rodotà (2012), Il diritto di avere diritti, Laterza.

3) G. Verschraegen and M.R. Madsen (2013), ‘Making Human Rights Intelligible: An Introduction to a Sociology of Human Rights’, in: Madsen, M.R. and G. Verschraegen (eds) (2013), Making Human Rights Intelligible. Towards a Sociology of Human Rights, Hart Publishers.

4) Rainer Forst: «Sto con Kant: i diritti umani non sono imperialismo dell‘Occidente», RESET.

5) B.S. TURNER (2017). ‘Cittadinanza, multiculturalismo e pluralismo giuridico: diritti culturali e teoria del riconoscimento critico’. Postfilosofie, (1), 77-94.

6) Ilaria Simonelli, Fabrizio Simonelli (2017), Verso la Human RightsBased Community Globale, La costruzione dei diritti umani: ideologie e movimenti sociali in transizione, FrancoAngeli.

7) Tosini, Domenico. "Problemi costituzionali dell’antiterrorismo successivo al 2001: un’analisi socio-giuridica della detenzione di Guantánamo." Sociologia del diritto (2016).

Teaching methods


Class debates and discussion

Assessment methods

Midterm test

Final written essay

Office hours

See the website of Paulus Albertus Blokker