Seminar on Inequality & Human Rights (Fall 2015)

The Inequality & Human Rights seminar, taught by Professor Karen Engle and Postdoctoral Fellow Julia Dehm in Fall 2015, examined the relationship between international human rights law and economic inequality. It addressed the question of how human rights approaches might provide useful tools for ameliorating economic inequality, or whether such approaches may instead exacerbate the problem. The seminar was linked with the Rapoport Center’s Colloquium on Inequality and Human Rights. Weekly readings were assigned to correspond with the fortnightly speaker series, which saw a diverse range of practitioners and academics speak on issues and questions raised in the class. The lectures ran as follows:

A New Greek Tragedy?: Inequality, Human Rights and Democracy?

Croesus’ World: Human Rights in the Age of Inequality

Right to Development After the Collapse of Development

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

The Sustainable Development Goals: A Course Correction?

Students were given the opportunity to engage with speakers, both through writing a reaction paper in response to a particular speaker (and which was sent to the speaker ahead of the lecture) and by asking questions and initiating discussion during the public lectures. The seminar culminated in a Mini-Conference where students each presented the paper they had written over the course of the semester. Topics included water privatization, the right to education, the right to health and equal access to medicine, rights of migrant workers under the Kafala system, remittances as a means of poverty reduction, economic migration, the relationship between the Greek economic crisis and the Eurozone, climate change as a human rights violation and the role of human rights in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Each sought to answer the question of whether international human rights law has any role in addressing economic inequality, or whether instead it simply serves to perpetuate increasingly unjust and unequal economic systems.

View the syllabus here.