Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue, 2018–19

Bard College Catalogue, 2018–19

Human Rights


Thomas Keenan (director), Roger Berkowitz, Ian Buruma, Nicole Caso, Christian Crouch, Mark Danner, Omar G. Encarnación, Helen Epstein, Tabetha Ewing, Nuruddin Farah, Laura Kunreuther, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Susan Merriam, Gregory B. Moynahan, Michelle Murray, Gilles Peress, Dina Ramadan, Chiara Ricciardone, Peter Rosenblum, John Ryle, Adam Shatz, Éric Trudel, Robert Weston, Micah White, Ruth Zisman


Human Rights is an interdisciplinary program spanning the arts, natural and social sciences, and languages and literature. Human Rights courses explore fundamental conceptual questions, historical and empirical issues within the disciplines, and practical and legal strategies of human rights advocacy. Students are encouraged to approach human rights in a spirit of open inquiry, to challenge orthodoxies, to confront ideas with reality and vice versa, and to think critically about human rights as a field of knowledge rather than merely training for it as a profession.


Students moderate into the Human Rights Program alone or in combination with another program (usually through a joint Moderation), by fulfilling the other program’s requirements and the following program requirements. All students, whether joint or stand-alone majors, must anchor their studies of human rights in a disciplinary focus program of their choice (e.g., anthropology, biology, art, history, etc.). Prior to or concurrent with Moderation, students are required to take at least three human rights core courses, one additional course in human rights, and two courses in the disciplinary focus program. Following Moderation, students take at least three additional 4-credit courses in human rights, at least one of these at the 300 level; the junior research seminar (Human Rights 303); and two further courses, including one at the 300 level in the disciplinary focus program. The final requirement is completion of a Senior Project related to human rights. To concentrate in the Human Rights Program, students must take two core courses and three additional elective courses, including at least one at the 300 level.

Recent Senior Projects in Human Rights

  • “From Marital Chastisement to Intimate Partner Violence: Revising the Story of Domestic Violence in the United States”
  • “In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors: Language and Legacy in the Hebron Settlements”
  • “Property, Propertied, Propertyless: Land Retention and Cultural Renaissance in the Gullah Geechee Community”

Internships and Affiliated Programs

Students are encouraged to undertake summer internships and participate in programs off campus, including the Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program, Central European University, Smolny College, American University of Central Asia, Al-Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences, and Bard College Berlin.


Core courses include Human Rights 101, Introduction to Human Rights; Human Rights 120, Human Rights Law and Practice; Human Rights 213, Gay Rights, Human Rights; Human Rights 218, Free Speech; Human Rights 226, Women’s Rights, Human Rights; Human Rights 233, Problems in Human Rights; Human Rights 234, Defining the Human; Human Rights 235, Dignity and the Human Rights Tradition; Human Rights 2509, Telling Stories about Rights; Human Rights 257, Human Rights and the Economy; and Human Rights 316, History of Human Rights. Additional courses offered through other fields of study include Anthropology 261, Anthropology of Violence and Suffering; Art History 289, Rights and the Image;  GIS 231, Humanitarian Military Intervention; History 2631, Capitalism and Slavery; and Spanish 240, Testimonies of Latin America.

Introduction to Human Rights
Human Rights 101
What are humans and what are rights? Students consider the foundations of rights claims; legal and violent ways of advancing, defending, and enforcing rights; documents and institutions of the human rights movement; and the questionable reality of human rights in our world. Readings are drawn from Hannah Arendt, Nuruddin Farah, Michael Ignatieff, Kant, David Rieff, and Rousseau, as well as Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Human Rights Law and Practice
Human Rights 120
In recent decades, human rights has come to occupy a powerful space in international law, political rhetoric, activism, and the news cycle. When and why did that come about? What other options did it displace? In an attempt to answer these questions, the course combines an inquiry into the historical and theoretical underpinnings of human rights with case studies that introduce the actors, institutions, and laws that constitute the contemporary practice of human rights.

Human Rights and Media
Human Rights 122
The course looks at the way human rights and media, particularly journalism, are linked, both by tracing historical developments and discussing contemporary issues. Taking Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” (freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and from fear) as the starting point, the class considers the role that journalists should and do play in relation to human rights, as well as the way human rights activists and marginalized groups use media in a time of changing media technologies.

Human Rights: What Remains
Human Rights 125
After a period of phenomenal growth in prominence in the 1970s and a burst of institutional innovation and legal expansion after the end of the Cold War, international human rights appears to have lost momentum. The first half of the course explores the rise of international human rights and the factors that appear to have contributed to its decline, including post 9/11 security priorities and changes in the global economy. The second half is devoted to case studies in contemporary human rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Human Rights 153
Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, was a campaigner for social, economic, and civil rights; one of the most influential public diplomats of the 20th century; a journalist; and a teacher. She was also keenly interested in the Bard College curriculum, and particularly approved of Bard’s public engagement activities. Students use archival material, available through the FDR Library, to investigate the ways Eleanor Roosevelt deployed the media forms of her day to “educate” the broader public and to further examine her views on liberal arts education.

Gay Rights, Human Rights
Human Rights 213
An in-depth survey of historical and contemporary struggles for LGBT rights, including the right to association, repeal of antisodomy statutes, privacy rights, equal protection, military service, employment discrimination, same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and transgender rights around restroom access and incarceration. The course focuses on LGBT rights in the United States, but broader contexts in American history and international human rights law are also considered.

Free Speech
Human Rights 218
What is “freedom of speech”? Is there a right to say anything? Why? This course investigates who has had this right, where it came from, and what it has to do with literature and the arts. Debates about censorship, hate speech, the First Amendment, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are starting points, but less obvious questions—about surveillance, faith and the secular, confession and torture—are also explored.

Queer Subjects of Desire
Human Rights 221
Over the past two decades, debates between proponents of gay and lesbian studies and proponents of queer theory have proliferated into a rich array of subfields in gender and sexuality research. In this course, students engage in core debates that are shaping the widening field of sexuality studies. Approaches addressed may include the subject of desire, psychoanalysis, gender theory, feminism, homosexuality and the law, ethnosexualities, sexuality and race, and transgender.

Epidemiology: A Human Rights Perspective
Human Rights 223 / Biology 223
Epidemiologists investigate patterns in the spread of diseases, predict outbreaks, and identify who is most at risk. Modern epidemiology emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries when the United States and Europe encountered a spate of new diseases—cholera, typhus, lung cancer, lead poisoning—that arose from new methods of industrial production, changing patterns of trade, urbanization and migration, and new personal habits and ways of life. This course looks at how epidemics have been addressed throughout history as well as the most serious public health threats we face today.

Women’s Rights, Human Rights
Human Rights 226
Following an overview of first-wave feminism, the course engages students with second-wave feminism, including the critical appropriations and contestations of Marxism, structuralism, and psychoanalysis that were characteristic of post-1968 feminist theory; poststructuralist theories of sexual difference; écriture féminine; ’70s debates surrounding the NOW and ERA movements; and issues of race and class at the center of third-wave feminism.

Dissent, Ethics, and Politics
Human Rights 227
Václav Havel, in his essay “The Power of the Powerless” (1978), defines Eastern European dissidents as those who decided to “live in truth.” This course, part of the Courage to Be series, examines various conceptions and strategies of political resistance in former Soviet Bloc countries, with a focus on the role of intellectuals and writers. Central to this inquiry is the question of what it means to say no to power—and the relevance of this question today. Texts by Havel, Patocka, Kundera, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Ki, and others.

Problems in Human Rights
Human Rights 233 / Anthropology 233
This course looks at current issues such as slavery, genocide, body modification, and the rights of children and animals, and examines how human rights researchers deal with practical difficulties and ethical challenges posed by other cultures.

Defining the Human
Human Rights 234 
In this course, students engage with a range of theoretical discussions that attempt to situate the human being vis-à-vis its “other,” traditionally as a kind of intermediary being, poised uncomfortably between animality, on the one hand, and divinity, on the other. Texts may include works by Aristotle, Hobbes, La Rochefoucauld, Rousseau, Kant, Schiller, Marx, Nietzsche, Bergson, Bataille, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault.

Dignity and Human Rights Traditions: A New Law on Earth
Human Rights 235
Lawyers in Germany and South Africa are developing a “dignity jurisprudence” that might guarantee human rights on the foundation of human dignity. Is it possible to develop a secular and legal idea of dignity that can offer grounds for human rights?

End of the Paradigm? Terror, Trump, and the Testing of Human Rights
Human Rights 236
Since the end of World War II, America has been a leader of the international human rights movement. In recent decades this leadership has gone hand in hand with national interest, which meant building multilateral alliances in Europe and Asia as well as an open worldwide trading system. These alliances—and American leadership in the promotion of human rights—have come into question with the rise of Donald Trump. The class examines the history of U.S. human rights policy, its overlap with national security interests, and Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

Arguing with the Supreme Court (about Rights)
Human Rights 242
Supreme Court arguments bring to bear a vast range of research and reflection on the law, policy, and politics of our society. Recent terms have included cases on health care, gay marriage, freedom of speech, religious freedom, and the place of race in education. This course digs deeply into seven cases: students listen to the Supreme Court argument, read and analyze background documents, and research the major arguments and actors.

Constitutional Law: Theory and Comparative Practice
Human Rights 243 / Political Studies 243
See Political Studies 243 for a full course description.

The Perversities of Power: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy
Human Rights 247
Half a million people have died in Syria’s civil war. Does the United States, the world’s most powerful nation, have a responsibility to stop the killing? Scores of prisoners sit imprisoned in Guantánamo, having never been charged with a crime. Does the United States have the right to hold them? Our country is at once the leading force for the present human rights treaty regime and its most prominent violator. This course looks at the history of American power and its evolving relationship to human rights.

Telling Stories about Rights
Human Rights 2509 / Literature 2509
See Literature 2509 for a course description.

Donald Trump and His Antecedents
Human Rights 251
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the president—the first with no prior experience in government, the military, or public service. Trump has drawn comparisons with past populist demagogic leaders, and his rise coincides with the resurgence of authoritarian leaders across the globe. Students read about the history of conservative, populist, authoritarian, fascist, and demagogic leaders with the aim of understanding the context in which such leaders emerge. At the same time, the class considers the first months of the Trump presidency.

War Crimes in Film
Human Rights 252 / Film 252
See Film 252 for a full course description.

Human Rights and the Economy
Human Rights 257
This course explores the history of “economic and social rights” before looking at efforts to bring human rights considerations into the project of development and use human rights in battles with investors and global corporations. Texts include works by Amartya Sen, Philip Alston, Peter Uvin, Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Collier, William Easterly, Abhijit Banerjee, and Esther Duflo; and case studies of activist engagements with Nike, Shell Oil, the World Bank, and others. Also considered is the United Nations’ engagement with business and human rights.

Child Survival and Human Rights
Human Rights 261
A survey of efforts past and present—by governments, health agencies, and foundations—to promote the health of children around the world. The course first examines efforts led by UNICEF to save children in poor countries from pneumonia, malaria, and other diseases of poverty; and then at how American public health officials reduced the toll from these same diseases during the early 20th century using very different methods. Also addressed: America’s resistance to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the special challenges faced by LGBTQ children.

Capitalism and Slavery
Human Rights 2631 / History 2631
See History 2631 for a full course description.

Research in Human Rights
Human Rights 303
What does it mean to do research in human rights? What are the relevant methods and tools? How do political and ethical considerations enter into the conduct of research? The seminar explores a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to the field, with readings from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives.

Food, Labor, and Human Rights
Human Rights 311
This seminar looks at domestic and international efforts to regulate and improve the conditions of workers who produce food. The class first studies the history of agricultural labor, the role of plantation economies, and contemporary analyses of the relationship between labor and the economics of food production. It then considers private and public mechanisms to improve conditions, including social-certification programs and fair trade. Case studies include migrant workers in the Hudson Valley, tomato pickers in Florida, and tea plantations in India.

Humanitarian Action
Human Rights 314
How do charity, law, politics, and logistics interact in crisis situations? Starting with the founding of the International Red Cross in 1863, the course traces the pathways that have led to the contemporary landscape of nongovernmental relief organizations and state-sponsored humanitarian intervention. The role of celebrities and the media, the political and legal infrastructure of relief, the militarization of humanitarianism in the post–Cold War world, and the principles and practices of the “without borders” movement are also addressed.

History of Human Rights
Human Rights 316
International human rights is both young and old: the core ideas stretch back to the Enlightenment, but the founders of the modern movement are just reaching retirement. And there is still considerable debate over what human rights is—a movement, an ideology, a set of laws? Texts by founding figures of the modern movement (Louis Henkin, Aryeh Neier); journalists (Adam Hochschild); and historians (Lynn Hunt, Samuel Moyn, Carol Anderson, Elizabeth Borgwardt, and Ken Cmiel.

Persons and Things
Human Rights 318
The fragility of the boundary between persons and things is a recurring structure in the history of human rights. How do persons become things, and vice versa? How can things have rights, and how do they claim and exercise them? Topics include the legal definition of “person,” gender and personhood, illegal”/undocumented aliens, structures of personification, slavery, reification, poetry and sculpture, personhood as property, social media and new forms of subjectivity, and the Pygmalion complex.

The Drone Revolution
Human Rights 319
Military commentators claim that drone technology could alter the character of war forever. On the home front, some see an $80 billion industry that will create 75,000 jobs and result in untold efficiencies. Peering into a future in which autonomous weapons systems target and kill without human intervention, and drone highways crisscross the American skies, this seminar equips students with the knowledge and analytic skills to judge whether we are indeed on the edge of “the drone revolution.”

Human Rights 3206
Evidence would seem to be a matter of facts, far from the realm of literary or artistic invention. But, whether as fact or fiction, we are regularly confronted by all sorts of signs and we need to learn how to read the traces of things left behind. This seminar explores the theory and practice of evidence, with special attention paid to the different forms evidence can take and the disputes to which it can give rise, especially when violations of, and claims for, human rights are at stake.

Race and the Pastoral
Human Rights 323
The course explores the meaning of the literary and cultural category of “pastoral.” Is it a mode, a genre, an affect, or something else? The same critical investigation applies to “race,” and to what race and the pastoral might have to do with one another. Readings include Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory; Nancy Duncan’s Landscapes of Privilege: The Politics of the Aesthetic in an American Surburb; Cheryl Harris’s Whiteness as Property; and selections from Theocritus, Longus, Milton, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Bacon, Kant, Emerson, Thoreau, Wharton, Olmsted, Sontag, and others.

The Rise of the Terror State: 9/11, the Arab Spring, and the End of the Postwar Order
Human Rights 327
How did declaring war on terror lead to the rise of the terror state? During the months between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, the phrase “constructive instability” was murmured among Bush administration strategists. Determined to take advantage of the “unipolar moment,” the administration launched its Iraq adventure with the ambition of destroying the old Middle East and building a new, American-friendly one in its place. A dozen years later, the region is in chaos. This seminar explores the consequences of “constructive instability” with an eye to U.S. policymaking under Bush and Obama.

Human Rights in the Global Economy
Human Rights 338
The transformation of the global economy since the end of the Cold War—including the increased importance of transnational trade, investment, and global corporations—forced human rights advocates to rethink their focus on the state. This course explores the history of the global corporation in relation to the rights of workers and citizens in the societies where they operate (case studies include the British East India Company, United Fruit Company, and the South African divestment campaign), as well as the rise of economic activism.

Photography and Human Rights
Human Rights 343
Human rights today is unthinkable apart from photography. Without photography—the vector by which NGOs generate knowledge, evidence, and funding, based on a sense of empathy and urgency—there would probably be fewer human rights and no humanitarian movement. Starting with historical accounts by Lynn Hunt and others, the class explores the ways in which visual appeals have played a defining role in the establishment of human rights, both as consciousness and as constitutional and international law.

Social Action: Theories and Practice
Human Rights 347
From the Millennium Development Goals to local community action projects, ordinary citizens around the world are unsatisfied with existing solutions to problems and seek to turn their complaints and critiques into positive proposals for change. Doing things ethically and effectively takes thought, pragmatic awareness, strategies, and skills. Students come away from this seminar with theoretical and practical tools for conceiving, designing, and evaluating ethical social and civic engagement.

Critical Human Rights Theory
Human Rights 349
The notion of universal human rights has become an unavoidable source for ethical and political thinking and practice—although a consensus over the meaning and application of human rights still eludes us. Notions bequeathed to us by the liberal and humanist traditions—the autonomous individual, the rational subject, citizenship, sovereignty, the rule of law—have been radically contested. This seminar engages with a new critical literature on human rights and assesses the implications of the “critical turn” for the practice of human rights.

Anti-Semitism: Anatomy of Hatred
Human Rights 350
For as long as there have been human beings, there has been hatred, and anti-Semitism is one of its oldest and most persistent forms. What is anti-Semitism, and how has it manifested itself in different eras, regions, and cultures? What insights can we gain about other forms of hatred (homophobia, racism, Islamophobia) from the study of anti-Semitism? Readings include selections from contemporary experts; historical figures such as Peter Stuyvesant, George Washington, and Adolf Hitler; religious figures; newspaper articles and social media postings; and Nazi and neo-Nazi literature.

Rights, Space, and Politics in Refugee Camps
Human Rights 352
The year 2015 marked the highest refugee population ever registered: 60 million people. As the refugees able to return to their countries are always fewer than those who leave, it is useful to consider refugee camps as complex urban structures—neither cities nor temporary encampments. The course tries to make sense of this new urban reality, using Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank as a principal site of investigation for understanding how collective spaces are produced in the absence of state structures and how these spaces are politicized for affirming rights beyond the nation-state.

Reproductive Health and Human Rights
Human Rights 354 
Topics addressed include population growth and family planning, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution and sex trafficking, maternal mortality, gender violence, female genital mutilation, abortion, and LGBT rights. Emphasis is placed on how public policies concerning these issues have evolved over time in relation to historical events such as the Cold War, decolonization, immigration, and changing attitudes toward the family.

Scholars at Risk
Human Rights 355
Scholars, students, and other researchers around the world are routinely threatened, jailed, or punished. This seminar explores the idea of academic freedom by examining—and attempting to intervene in—situations where it is threatened. In conjunction with the human rights organization Scholars at Risk (SAR), the class investigates cases of scholars currently living under threat and develops projects aimed at releasing them from detention or securing refuge for them. This involves hands-on advocacy work with SAR.

Violence, Sovereignty, and the Image: Analyzing ISIS Media
Human Rights 357
Boris Groys has suggested that video art is the medium of choice for the contemporary warrior, and that Osama bin Laden was the king of video artists. The warrior/terrorists of the Islamic State (ISIS) are both iconoclasts and masters of spectacular image creating, editing, and distributing. Bin Laden once reminded Mullah Omar that “media war” was “90 percent of the total preparation for the battles.” This course looks at what happens when violence becomes the permanent expression of sovereignty and the state of exception becomes the norm.

LGBTQ+ Issues in U.S. Education
Human Rights 358
An overview of both the history and contemporary landscape of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and related (LGBTQ+) issues in U.S. education. Students explore the legal, political, pedagogical, and empirical questions that have been central to this field over the last three decades, such as: What are the rights of LGBTQ+ students and educators, and what are the obstacles to their being realized? What do LGBTQ+ supportive school environments look like, and what does research tell us about their effectiveness?

Language of History and Politics: Human Rights and the Bosnian War
Human Rights 359
Many consider the breakup of Yugoslavia and, particularly, the war in Bosnia (1991–95), as the birthplace of contemporary human rights discourse and practice. One hundred thousand died there in what courts later judged to be a genocide, and phrases like ethnic cleansing, humanitarian intervention, and international criminal justice entered our lexicon. This research workshop, linked to the production of a book, explores the concepts and narratives in which the conflict played out, through intensive work with documents, historical accounts, political analyses, and images from the war.