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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : International Public Health Policy

Postgraduate Course: Humanity, Law and Violence (PGSP11520)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will examine the relationship between law, violence, and humanity using a multi-disciplinary perspective: politics and IR; history; international law, human rights, and humanitarianism; political anthropology. It aims to explore how the category of humanity, while expanding and universalising the idea of shared human belonging, has been historically utilised also as a political and legal weapon of exclusion and injustice (often along gender and racial lines) in different contexts of conflict and political violence. We will analyse the history and existing theorisation of the category of human in legal and political debates about war and the use of violence, the case-by-case justifications and criticisms of it by state and non-state actors, and the contemporary manifestations of the paradox of humanity as an instrument of violence and domination.
Course description Humanity, Law, and Violence investigates the history of the mobilisation of humanitarian and human rights arguments in different contexts of conflict and political violence: from the birth of international humanitarian law, its use in imperial and colonial wars and intra-Western conflicts, to the birth of the international human rights movement. The course aims to introduce students to one of the most complex and challenging phenomena in contemporary global politics: the mobilisation of the category of humanity in a way that ultimately enables and legalises violence-often along gender and racial lines-rather than restraining it.

We will analyse the networks of state and non-state actors involved in the deployment of the category of human in contexts of war and political violence (with case studies in which both state actors and prominent non-state organisations, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, through Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to Doctors Without Borders, invoked the category of humanity to make sense of violence); the understanding of the similarities and differences between these different actors in their mobilisation of humanity as a legal-political category; and the global political challenges of this paradoxical process through which as the result of the interaction between actors which formally have different political aims, humanity has often become a tool for enabling rather than restraining inequality, violence, and domination.

We shall approach the question of the category of humanity in war and legal-political debates from four different directions which will match the four key sections of the course: (1) conceptually, we will survey and assess various theorisations of the paradox at stake; (2) analytically, we will explore arguments in support and against the mobilisation of humanity to restrain violence; (3) comparatively, we will examine various regional and historical contexts such as colonial and decolonial wars, humanitarian wars, and the "War on Terror" in which state and non-state actors have deployed the category of humanity and the legal arguments related to it to make sense of the use of violence (4) critically, we will probe the causes for the paradox at stake and interrogate the implications of the global politics for/against humanity.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. critically identify, define, conceptualise and analyse urgent contemporary issues of justice
  2. present and communicate their ideas to specialised audiences
  3. develop an original and autonomous research path
Reading List
1. Abu Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
2. Barnett, Michael. Empire of Humanity. A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
3. Butler, Judith. Frames of War. London: Verso, 2009.
4. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2004 edition
5. Kinsella, Helen. The Image Before the Weapon. A Critical History of the Distinction Between Civilian and Combatant. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
6. Perugini, Nicola, and Gordon, Neve. The Human Right to Dominate. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
7. Zolo, Danilo. Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global order. London: Continuum, 2002.
8. Çubukçu, Ayça. For the Love of Humanity The World Tribunal on Iraq. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nicola Perugini
Tel: (0131 6)51 5472
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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