SOA-2008 Minorities, Culture and Human Rights - 10 ECTS
Cultural relativism, a key anthropological concept, holds that right and wrong are defined from within a cultural context and that it is not possible to develop moral principles that apply to all cultures and all situations. From this perspective, the notion of universal human rights, which apply in the same way to every human being, can be seen as an imposition of "western" values and standards upon the world. Anthropological debates about universalism vs cultural relativism have become more nuanced and sophisticated in recent decades. The relationship between collective and individual rights has also been an important focus. Anthropologists have applied the hallmark method of the discipline - long-term fieldwork and participant observation - to deepen understanding of the meaning of human rights at local, national, and international levels. Some have also engaged in activist research with communities, joining them in local and global struggles for minority rights.
This course will trace the anthropological debates about Human Rights, looking at theoretical concepts, juridical frameworks and international norms. We will discuss methodological approaches to the study of human rights and related ethical issues. The emphasis will be on minority rights, including indigenous peoples, national minorities, gender minorities and refugees - and the intersections of these categories.
Objective of the course
Successful completion of the course will lead to the following learning outcomes:
- Basic understanding of the history of anthropological thought regarding Human Rights
- Deep understanding of the concepts of Cultural Relativism and Universalism, and the balance between them, as they apply to Human Rights questions.
- Have a good understanding of indigenous minority relations to majorities and governments.
- Use of analytical tools to understand general processes of social categorisation and differentiation
- To apply a comparative perspective to indigenous/minority conditions worldwide
- Ability to apply all of these tools to global debates on Human Rights in general, and on specific cases involving indigenous/minority rights
- Be able to reflect critically on debates regarding cultural relativism and universalism related to human rights
- Ability to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of Human Rights discourses for the prospects of indigenous peoples' self-determination, gender-based rights, and other minority rights cases.
Coursework-assignments: There will be two assignments during the course, both must be approved in order to take the final exam. The assignments may be written in either English or Norwegian. The students will receive all further details in class.
The examination is a take home exam, 10 pages (3500 words).
Grades are given on a scale from A - E. The exam will be given in English, and students may answer the exam in either Norwegian or English.
If the students get the grade F, re-sit exam will be given the following semester.
Date for examinationHome examination hand out date 01.11.2019 hand in date 08.11.2019
The date for the exam can be changed. The final date will be announced in the StudentWeb early in May and early in November.