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Bard College Catalogue 2021-22
Thomas Keenan (director), Ziad Abu-Rish, Roger Berkowitz, Ian Buruma, Nicole Caso, Christian Ayne Crouch, Mark Danner, Tania El Khoury, Omar G. Encarnación, Helen Epstein, Jeannette Estruth, Tabetha Ewing, Nuruddin Farah, Kwame Holmes, Laura Kunreuther, Susan Merriam, Alys Moody, Gregory Morton, Gregory B. Moynahan, Michelle Murray, Gilles Peress, Dina Ramadan, Miles Rodriguez, Peter Rosenblum, John Ryle, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Éric Trudel, Robert Weston, 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, challenge orthodoxies, confront ideas with reality and vice versa, and 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
- A FINE LINE: On Supporting People in Prison by Recognizing Correctional Officers as
Stakeholders in Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives”
- “Neither Dead nor Alive: Lebanon’s Missing and Forcibly Disappeared Persons”
- “Thinking of Doggerland: Experiments in Climate Fiction and Narratives of Human Rights”
Internships and Affiliated Programs
Students are encouraged to undertake summer internships and participate in programs off campus, including study-away opportunities at the Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program and partner universities in the Open Society University Network.
Core courses include Human Rights 101, Introduction to Human Rights; Human Rights 105, Human Rights Advocacy; Human Rights 120, Human Rights Law and Practice; Human Rights 213, Gay Rights, Human Rights; Human Rights 226, Women’s Rights, Human Rights; Human Rights 234, (Un)Defining the Human; Human Rights 235, Dignity and the Human Rights Tradition; Human Rights 240, Observation and Description; Human Rights 2509, Telling Stories about Rights; and Human Rights 257, Human Rights and the Economy. Core courses offered through other fields of study include Anthropology/GIS 224, A Lexicon of Migration; Anthropology 261, Anthropology of Violence and Suffering; History 2356, American Indian History; History 2631, Capitalism and Slavery; Literature 218, Free Speech; Political Studies 245, Human Rights in Global Politics; 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.
Race, Health, and Inequality: A Global Perspective
Human Rights 104
DESIGNATED: DASI AND RJI COURSE
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the systemic health and social inequities that put racial minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from disease. This course explores the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic health inequities, and examines how different countries have responded to these inequities. Also considered; how racism, colonialism, and
globalization have impacted the health of incarcerated populations and various immigrant groups, and how community-based activism and social movements could move countries closer to
Human Rights Advocacy
Human Rights 105
DESIGNATED: ELAS AND MIGRATION INITIATIVE COURSE
Half of the course focuses on the history and theory of human rights advocacy—What is it to make claims for human rights, or to denounce their violation, especially on behalf of others? How, when, and why have individuals and groups spoken out, mounted campaigns, published exposés?—and half involves hands-on work with Scholars at Risk. The class researches specific events and individuals, communicates with families and advocates, writes country and case profiles, proposes strategies for pressuring governments and other actors, and develops appeals to public opinion.
Human Rights Law and Practice
Human Rights 120
This is a core course on the origin, evolution, and contemporary state of human rights law and practice. The first half explores the rise of international human rights law and the transnational human rights movement. The second half is devoted to case studies in contemporary human rights, focusing on issues of migration, criminal justice, labor, health care, and inequality. Authors include Louis Henkin, Samuel Moyn, Lynn Hunt, and Kathryn Sikkink. Case studies are prepared from contemporary materials from courts, activists, and critics.
Civil Rights Meets Human Rights
Human Rights 189
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES
For much of the 20th century, civil rights and human rights advocates worked hand in hand against a shared target: state actors and global systems that exploited human bodies and denied human dignity in the name of prejudice, nationalism, and profit. Yet in the 1960s, a new wave of social movements representing Black, feminist, LGBTQ, Chicano, Indigenous, and disabled perspectives pushed against notions of universal human rights. Students read foundational writings of identity-based movement leaders, with an eye to their applicability to contemporary struggles over immigration, mass incarceration, and police violence.
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.
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. Taught in parallel with classes at Bard College Berlin, Al-Quds Bard, and the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. Many assignments and activities are shared, and the class works jointly on some material with students at other schools.
Mapping Police Violence
Human Rights 219
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Questions addressed include: What can we know about police violence, and what are the barriers to data transparency and distribution? What are the political, legal, economic, and cultural means through which Western societies authorize the use of deadly force? Can we measure the impact of police violence on factors like public health indices, property values, educational opportunities, and the distribution of social services? In pursuit of answers, the course engages political theory, history, sociology, economics, and cultural studies.
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 led to a rich array of subfields in gender and sexuality research. This course addresses some of the issues that have shaped the widening field of sexuality studies. Topics discussed may include essentialism vs. constructivism, gay historiography, transhistorical and transcultural patterns of same-sex desire, (homo)sexuality and race, (homo)sexuality and terrorism, and the homoerotics of war.
Epidemics and Human Rights
Human Rights 223
CROSS-LISTED: ANTHROPOLOGY, BIOLOGY, GIS, GSS, PSYCHOLOGY
Epidemiologists study how diseases spread through populations. They track down the sources of outbreaks, explore disease trends, and try to understand the social forces that influence sexual behavior, weight gain, and other complex human phenomena. Because the spread of disease is frequently influenced by economic conditions and/or government policies, epidemiology also serves as a powerful forensic tool for human rights activists. The class looks at research on public health emergencies such as Ebola and AIDS, and recent mysterious increases in specific mental illnesses.
Women’s Rights, Human Rights
Human Rights 226
DESIGNATED: HSI COURSE
Following an overview of first-wave feminism, this 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..
Problems in Human Rights
Human Rights 233 / Anthropology 233
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES
The course approaches a set of practical and ethical human rights issues through the study of historical and contemporary rights campaigns. These include the antislavery movement in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries (and later campaigns against human trafficking); the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II; the fight to ban antipersonnel landmines in the 1990s; ongoing debates around female genital cutting; and campaigns for LGBTQIA rights.
(Un)Defining the Human
Human Rights 234
At least since Aristotle, philosophers have sought to delineate the contours of the human. To define what it means to be human is at once to exclude those modes of being deemed to be not human—a process of exclusion that produces various categories of otherness: thing, animal, savage, slave, other, foreigner, stranger, cyborg, alien. Students engage with a range of theoretical discussions that attempt to situate the human being vis-à-vis its varying “others.”
Dignity and Human Rights Traditions: A New Law on Earth
Human Rights 235
CROSS-LISTED: POLITICAL STUDIES
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?
Observation and Description
Human Rights 240
The observation and description of reality is a fundamental problem for human rights. The process of trying to understand what we see, how we see it, and how we describe it brings us closer to a resolution. This seminar sets out to reappropriate reality, to see images in the heart and eye before they harden as categories, styles, and definitions.
Constitutional Law: Theory and Comparative Practice
Human Rights 243 / Political Studies 243
See Political Studies 243 for a full course description.
Humanism and Antihumanism in 20th-Century French Thought
Human Rights 245
CROSS-LISTED: FRENCH STUDIES
What is the legacy of humanism in 20th-century French thought? The belief in its values was once so strong that humanism came to be equated with republicanism and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. And yet the humanists’ affirmation of the centrality of man came under attack throughout the century, under the influence of Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, ultimately to be denounced as nothing more than a construct of “petit bourgeois” ideology. This course surveys the ongoing and contentious debate.
Can We Retire from Race?
Human Rights 249
In 2012 the conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper famously “retired" from being Black. This 2-credit workshop takes its inspiration from Piper’s provocative gesture and growing skepticism about racial categorization. It aims to challenge students’ thinking about the racialized identities we inhabit/inherit and concerns itself with two questions: to what extent do we create ourselves and to what extent are our identities passively received? Authors may include Piper, Paul Gilroy, James Baldwin, Albert Murray, and Thomas Chatterton Williams.
Telling Stories about Rights
Human Rights 2509 / Literature 2509
See Literature 2509 for a course description.
Abolishing Prisons and the Police
Human Rights 253
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, HISTORICAL STUDIES
DESIGNATED: ELAS AND HSI COURSE
This course explores what’s to be gained and lost in a world without prisons. Through the lens of abolition (addressed via movements to end slavery, the death penalty, abortion, and gay conversion therapy), students examine how and why groups of Americans have sought to bring an end to sources of human suffering. Also addressed: a history of the punitive impulse in American social policy and, on the specific question of prison abolition, how to “sell” abolition to the masses and design a multimedia ad campaign to make prison abolition go viral.
Sanctuary: Engaging State and Local Government for Human Rights
Human Rights 255
CROSS-LISTED: POLITICAL STUDIES
DESIGNATED: HSI AND MIGRATION INITIATIVE COURSE
The rise of “sanctuary cities” has pitted the federal government against states and localities in the enforcement of immigration law. The battles ignite questions about federalism that have persisted since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution: while federal law is “supreme” in the Constitution, states remain “sovereign.” This course explores the history and legal underpinnings of local government engagement for human rights; the second half focuses on the current struggle over immigration law enforcement. Readings include historical materials, Supreme Court cases, and case studies of sanctuary towns and cities.
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.
How to Change the World: Theories and Practices
Human Rights 258
Whether we are campaigning for civil rights, environmental justice, refugee rights, or LGBTQIA and women’s rights, a prerequisite to success is a theory of social change that guides the methods employed. Protest tactics are plentiful, from direct action in the streets to ballot initiative, but if the theory of change underlying the activism is false, then protests are bound to fail. This course looks at four theories of change—voluntarism, structuralism, subjectivism, and theurgism—through case studies from ancient Greece to the modern world.
Epidemiology of Childhood
Human Rights 261
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, GPH
Childhood has always been treacherous. In many parts of the world, infants and toddlers still succumb in vast numbers to pneumonia, malaria, and other killer diseases; in the West, doctors are flummoxed by soaring rates of developmental and learning disabilities like autism and attention deficit disorder, and psychological conditions like depression and psychosis. The course examines how researchers study the major afflictions of childhood, and how the public health and human rights communities have attempted to protect children’s health, often successfully, over the past 200 years.
Capitalism and Slavery
Human Rights 2631 / History 2631
See History 2631 for a full course description.
Law of Police
Human Rights 264
DESIGNATED: RJI COURSE
Recent events have challenged the role of police, highlighting persistent problems of abuse, particularly against African Americans. At the same time, the movement to reform the police faces powerful countervailing political, economic, and legal forces. Law defines the power of the police and its limits, but critics of the left and right show how the law fails to account for the reality or cover the full range of a police action. This course explores laws that have empowered police, those that have attempted to limit them, and the limits of the law itself.
Contemporary Propaganda: Inside Cambridge Analytica and the “Bad Influence” Industry
Human Rights 265
In 2017–18, Trump’s campaign firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), and Facebook became embroiled in a data-driven disinformation scandal that stunned the world. Where did it all begin? In recent years our online and offline activities have increasingly become monitored and monetized—and a whole industry has grown up around persuasion. Students research CA’s influence campaigns; learn about tools and techniques deployed to profit from and obscure influence activities; and discover the global underworld of the influence industry and the role it plays in undermining democracy worldwide.
Public Health in Action
Human Rights 266
Public health programs and practitioners operate at the nexus of civil society, politics, humanitarian emergencies, and other crises to ensure that programs reach the right people in the right place(s) at the right time(s). Such programming requires coordination at local, regional, and national levels. Guest speakers discuss their experiences in leading responses to epidemics like AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19. They may include representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, and health ministries in Namibia, Haiti, Vietnam, and other nations (via Zoom).
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.
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.
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.
Advocacy Video: Clemency
Human Rights 321
CROSS-LISTED: FILM AND ELECTRONIC ARTS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
State governors (and the president) possess a strange remnant of royal sovereignty: the power of executive clemency, by which they can pardon offenses or commute criminal sentences. Clemency doesn’t just happen—it requires a lot of work on the part of the incarcerated person and his or her advocates. Participants in this seminar join forces with a team of students at CUNY School of Law and the human rights organization WITNESS to prepare short video presentations to accompany a number of New York State clemency applications. Proficiency with video shooting, editing, and an independent work ethic are important.
Human Rights in the Global Economy
Human Rights 338
CROSS-LISTED: ECONOMICS, GIS, GPH
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.
Reproductive Health and Human Rights
Human Rights 354
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, GPH, GSS
Beginning in the 13th century, a radical shift in attitudes and norms concerning family life began to spread from one society to another. It changed relationships between women and men, and parents and children, as well as how people saw themselves. Scholars call this shift the Demographic Transition, narrowly defined as a progressive reduction in the size of families and an increase in the survival of children. This course addresses the consequences of the Demographic Transition on women, children, men, societies, and nation.
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
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, GIS
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.
Human Rights 369
Though the subject may seem terrifyingly new to the average American, the collapse of republican or democratic government into tyranny has been a preoccupation of literature since democracy and literature began. The course presents central texts in this history, fiction and nonfiction alike, including writings by Plato, Robert Graves, Henry Adams, Sinclair Lewis, Tim Snyder, and others. Using these texts and examples drawn from the contemporary politics of Hungary, Russia, and the United States, the class focuses on the way democracies collapse—slowly, and then suddenly.
International Law, Human Rights, and the Question of Violence
Human Rights 370
This seminar explores the historical and contemporary intersections between international law, human rights, and violence. Of particular interest are the ways in which the development of international law and human rights relate to broader global dynamics, such as imperialism and de-colonization. Students consider how the human rights regime and broader system of international law relate to specific forms of violence, and engage contemporary debates about redefining/reforming international law and/or human rights as well as the institutional arrangements to produce and enforce them.
Disability Rights, Chronic Life
Human Rights 372
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, ARCHITECTURE, PHILOSOPHY
DESIGNATED: DASI COURSE
This seminar engages with disability studies, queer theory, architectural and design history, political ecology, and histories of radical organizing and mobilization that focus on the idea and experience of disability and sickness. In traversing these materials, the course asks: rather than seeing disability and sickness as a limitation or failure to reach a “healthy” norm, what can the experience of the disabled and chronically ill, as well as those who fight for their care, reveal about social structures, ideologies, and patterns of circulation that cannot be seen otherwise?
Beyond Colonial Distinctions: Concerning Human-Nonhuman Allyship
Human Rights 374
How might historically dehumanized communities stand in allyship with the nonhuman without experiencing further dehumanization? This course attempts to grapple with the highly contentious meeting points between human rights, racialization, and nonhuman rights. Through readings from Black feminist, decolonial, queer theory, and Native studies authors, as well as speculative authors, artists, and activist collectives, students explore the newest and oldest forms of allyship: interspecies solidarity.
Queer Ecopoetics: Sentience, Aesthetics, and Blackness
Human Rights 375
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY, GSS
This interdisciplinary seminar draws on fields of visual culture, Black studies, science fiction, cultural studies, queer and feminist theory, environmental justice, and artistic ecological interventionist work. It aims to equip students with a critical praxis toward curating/producing work that engages race, gender, colonialism, class, and disability justice in the face of drastic environmental change and its reverberations across the cultural sector. The course covers concepts from across visual arts, performance, film, ecological policy, curatorial theory, ecopoetics, climate justice, cyberpunk, and more.
Reality TV and the Problem of Advocacy in the 21st Century
Human Rights 376
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES
As the nation voted a reality TV star into the White House, the voting public became more likely to encounter social issues through the prism of reality TV rather than traditional news or documentary channels. This seminar invites discussion on the ways in which reality TV complicates traditional academic understandings of the impact of narrative film upon political discourse. Topics: the relationship between HGTV and gentrification, 90-Day Fiancé and immigration, The Swan and disability, Love after Lockup and prison reentry, RuPaul’s Drag Race and LGBTQ politics, and more