Contemporary Issues in Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

The details
Human Rights Centre
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2019
Friday 26 June 2020
08 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA M90112 Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

Module description

Whether one is a lawyer or a philosopher or a social scientist, we begin, in the field of human rights, from the fundamental premise asserted in the first sentence of the UDHR: 'recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.' And it is in the real world of diversity, of different ways of being, doing, seeing, understanding and meaning that we assert the universality of human rights.

Culture can interact with human rights in a variety of ways--sometimes challenging, sometimes reinforcing, but perhaps never ignoring. Therefore, the challenges that cultural diversity presents to human rights are truly fascinating and our study of them can not only enrich our understanding of human rights, but also enable us to advance human rights in a really meaningful way.

Module aims

The module provides a comprehensive education in a range of foundational and applied issues arising out of the relationship between human rights and cultural diversity. The approach is typically multidisciplinary with contributing lecturers coming from government, human rights, law, linguistics, philosophy and sociology.

Module learning outcomes

Satisfactory attendance of and participation in the teaching components of the module should enable all students to achieve the following:

* Gain satisfactory knowledge and understanding of the normative foundations of human rights.

* Gain satisfactory knowledge and understanding of specific critical perspectives upon human rights from the perspective of cultural diversity.

* Gain satisfactory knowledge and understanding of the rights of minorities, including indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities and the like.

* Gain an understanding of the complex relationship between respecting human rights principles and respecting various cultural communities.

* Gain a satisfactory knowledge and understanding of the relationship between religion and human rights.

* Gain a satisfactory knowledge and understanding of core legal mechanisms for the protection of cultural rights.

* Acquire an intellectual framework within which to situate and understand a range of contemporary debates and controversies within this area of study and practice.

Module information

In addition to the teaching staff, there will also be a range of internationally-renowned academic experts.

For most weeks, reading is divided into ‘essential’ and ‘further’ reading. Essential reading is mandatory as preparation for each week’s lecture/seminar and students are required to undertake the essential reading prior to each week’s lecture/seminar.

Learning and teaching methods

The module is taught over both the autumn and spring terms. It consists of a weekly two-hour lecture/seminar.


  • Niaz A. Shah. (no date) 'Women's Human Rights in the Koran: An Interpretive Approach', in Human Rights Quarterly: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Gilbert, G. (2008) 'The cultural and political autonomy of minorities', in L'Observatuer des Nations Unies. vol. 23, pp.225-250
  • Fagan, Andrew. (2017) Human rights and cultural diversity: core Issues and cases, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Margalit, Avishai; Raz, Joseph. (1990) 'National Self-determination', in Journal of Philosophy. vol. 87 (9) , pp.439-461
  • Bowden, B. (2005) 'The Colonial Origins of International Law - European Expansion and the Classical Standard of Civilization', in Journal of the History of International Law. vol. 7 (1)
  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child,
  • Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Approved by Resolution Nº 447 taken by the General Assembly of the OAS at its ninth regular session, held in La Paz, Bolivia, October 1979), of the Commission.htm
  • Statute of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Adopted by the General Assembly of the OAS at its Ninth Regular Session, held in La Paz Bolivia, October 1979 (Resolution Nº 448)),
  • Fujita, Sanae. (2018) 'Human Rights', in Routledge handbook of democratization in East Asia, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Champagne, Duane. (2013) 'UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples): Human, Civil, and Indigenous Rights', in Wicazo Sa Review. vol. 28 (1) , pp.9-
  • Bangkok Declaration on Human Rights (1993),
  • African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR),
  • Freeman, Michael. (2013) 'Universalism of human rights and cultural diversity', in Routledge handbook of international human rights law, Abingdon: Routledge., pp.49-62
  • Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women "Convention of Belem do Para" (Adopted in Belém do Pará, Brasil, on June 9, 1994, at the twenty fourth regular session of the General Assembly), of Belem Do Para.htm
  • Saeed, Abdullah. (2012) 'Pre-Modern Islamic Legal Restrictions on Freedom of Religion with Particular Reference to Apostasy and Its Punishment', in Islamic law and international human rights law: searching for common ground?, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nigel S. Rodley. (1995) 'Conceptual Problems in the Protection of Minorities - International Legal Developments', in Human Rights Quarterly: The Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 17, pp.48-71
  • Robert K. Goldman. (no date) 'History and Action: the Inter-American Human Rights System and the Role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights', in Human Rights Quarterly: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (19 November 2012), Human Rights Declaration
  • Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity,
  • Rodríguez-Pinzón, Diego. (2011) 'Selected Examples of the Contemporary Practice of the Inter-American System in Confronting Grave Violations of Human Rights: United States and Colombia', in Making peoples heard: essays on human rights in honour of Gudmundur Alfredsson, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
  • Gómez Isa, Felipe. (2017) 'The Decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the Awas Tingni vs. Nicaragua Case (2001): The Implementation Gap', in The Age of Human Rights Journal. vol. 8, pp.67-91
  • Smith, RKM. (2017) International Human Rights Law: OUP.
  • Kaime, Thoko. (2010) ''Vernacularising' the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Rights and Culture as Analytic Tools', in The International Journal of Children's Rights. vol. 18 (4) , pp.637-653
  • Viljoen, Frans. (2012) International human rights law in Africa, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Muntarbhorn, Vitit. (2013) 'The South-East Asian System for Human Rights Protection', in Routledge handbook of international human rights law, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim. (2014) 'Epilogue: The Normative Relevance of Sharia in the Modern Context,', in The Ashgate research companion to Islamic law, Farnham: Ashgate., pp.307-319
  • Sunder, Madhavi. (2001-12) 'Cultural Dissent', in Stanford Law Review. vol. 54 (3) , pp.495-
  • Susan Waltz. (no date) 'Universal Human Rights: The Contribution of Muslim States', in Human Rights Quarterly: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Avishai Margalit; Halbertal, Moshe. (2004) 'Liberalism and the Right to Culture', in Social Research: The Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 71, pp.529-548
  • Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. (c2013) Islam and human rights: tradition and politics, Boulder, CO.: Westview Press.
  • American Convention on Human Rights (Adopted at the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human Rights, San José, Costa Rica, 22 November 1969), Convention.htm
  • Keal, Paul. (2003) 'Dispossession and the Purposes of International Law', in European conquest and the rights of indigenous peoples: the moral backwardness of international society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. 92
  • Parekh, Bhikhu. (1999) 'Non-ethnocentric universalism', in Human rights in global politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol),
  • The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,
  • American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Adopted by the Ninth International Conference of American States, Bogotá, Colombia, 1948), Declaration.htm
  • Tittermore, B. D. (c1994-) 'Ending Impunity in the Americas: The Role of the Inter-American Human Rights System in Advancing Accountability for Serious Crimes under International Law', in Southwestern journal of international law, Los Angeles, Calif: Southwestern University School of Law. (2)

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Autumn Essay 13/01/2020 50%
Coursework Spring Essay 50%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Andrew Fagan, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Dr Julian Burger, Dr Sanae Fujita, Dr Clara Sandoval, Prof. Geoff Gilbert, Dr Gus Waschefort and leading figures from other Departments.
School of Law, University of Essex, Email:



External examiner

Dr Thomas Pegram
University College London
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 36 hours, 28 (77.8%) hours available to students:
8 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Human Rights Centre

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