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A History of Human Rights in Latin America (HI3K3)


Sin Memoria

Module Convenor: Dr Rosie Doyle (

Office Hours: Tuesdays 12:30-13:30 on Wednesdays 9:30-10:30 Microsoft Teams and/or in person.

In global histories of human rights Latin American nations and Latin Americans often appear as victims rather than possessors of a unique tradition of rights. Research suggests that a unique tradition of human rights took shape in Latin America from the 1940s at least, and some see the 1970s as the watershed moment for the emergence of human rights as we understand them today. Latin American governments and diplomats were central to the processes which established the international human rights system in the 1940s. The ideas about civil, political, social and economic rights that Latin Americans brought, and continue to bring, to the debating table developed through processes of revolution, reform and resistance since independence in the early nineteenth century. Some studies trace the tradition of rights in Latin America back to the colonial period and developments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

As current issues of rights to security, migrant rights, gender rights, environmental justice, indigenous rights to self- determination and the rights of Afro Latin Americans take centre stage in Latin American political and social life, this 30 CAT, final-year Advanced Option module analyses the development of rights in the region in historical perspective. It looks at the relationship between rights, colonialism, democracy, liberalism, imperialism, development, citizenship and sovereignty. It analyses the range of civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights as imagined by national and international institutions as well as citizens and social movements and their interplay with concepts of, race, class and gender. It does so through an exploration of the processes of colonisation, constitution-making, state-building, reform, revolution and resistance and Latin American states’ and citizens' involvement in the international human rights system and transnational movements of resistance and rights in the twentieth-century. It looks at the relationship between human rights and the alternatives of solidarity and social justice.

Students will analyse the current literature on rights, the historiography as well a broad range of primary sources. The module, takes a chronological approach starting with the colonial period but focusing particularly on the history of rights since independence at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The module ends with a series of seminars discussing the themes associated with human rights and looking at the way rights have been looked at in the research.

Content Warning: This course contains material about violence and abuse. Please be aware that you and your peers will find some of the material disturbing and challenging.

There is 1, 2-hour seminar per week.

There are 3 Seminar Times:

Thursdays 09:00 - 11:00, FAB 3.25

Thursdays 11:00 - 13:00, SO.17

Thursdays 14:00 - 16:00, FAB 3.33