International Law & the Humanities (SD 494)


Violations of international law, laws of war, and human rights laws are the plague of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Mass violence and the flagrant violation of human rights laws have a dramatic effect that inspires writers, film makers, artists, philosophers, historians and legal scholars to represent these horrors in their work. This course explores the human rights laws and international laws embedded in selected artistic representations. By adopting an interdisciplinary analytical approach based on semiotics or the science of signs, this course will unlock the coded language of literary and cinematographic works in order to unravel the complexities of many of the most controversial issues of our time such as terrorism, civil disobedience, women's human rights abuses, sex trafficking, the denial of the right to wear a headscarf to manifest the Islamic religion, child soldiering, the killing of girl babies due to traditional male child preference, the piracy of intellectual property, and the impact of culture on the interpretation of international laws.Students will discuss books, films and music that shed light on international law, international human rights laws, and international laws of war. Texts include Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, two well-known films Hotel Rwanda and The Pianist, Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran; two Iranian films about family law and women; Uzodinma Iweala's award winning book, Beasts of No Nation (about child soldiers and human trafficking of children); and Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan about women's rights in China), and many more. This course is designed to be an introduction into international law, international human rights laws, and international laws of war through the study of works in the humanities.


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