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CAS 497 - Special Topics: Human Rights

Professor: Anne Demo
Office: 219 Sparks
Phone: (814) 865-6255
Email: atd1@psu.edu 

From controversial executive branch decisions on drones and indefinite detention to media coverage about chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the subject of human rights has never been more relevant.  Over the last decade, however, the tools for human rights advocacy have changed dramatically with the pervasiveness of social media, the broad reach of geo-mapping, and increasing power of celebrity-activists.  This course focuses on three key players in contemporary U.S. human rights culture: the executive branch, the news media, and human rights activists.  We will trace how presidents from George H.W. Bush forward have framed human rights and the role of reporters in shaping public opinion about rights violations, humanitarian intervention, and the use of military force.  The course will also explore how the changing tools and platforms for advocacy (from formal declarations to video games) affect the realization of human rights.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this class, students will …

  1. Exhibit a familiarity with the research tools necessary for coursework related to human rights rhetoric;
  2. Know the key texts and tensions that shape how human rights have been defined since WWII;
  3. Be able to identify the similarities and differences in the rhetoric of post cold-war presidents regarding human rights, humanitarian intervention and use of military force;
  4. Be able to identify the challenges and norms of human rights reporting;
  5. Be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different strategies and outlets for human rights advocacy;
  6. Be familiar with the building blocks of a conceptually rigorous and well-reasoned analysis of human rights rhetoric and advocacy; 

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