This course is open to students enrolled in the Master Law and Society.
Human rights do not realise themselves. Something needs to happen, and therein lies a major dilemma: States are both envisaged as the primary protectors of human rights, while simultaneously being the greatest violators. In the first part of this course, we alternate between interactive lectures and participatory workshops, exploring the dynamics between law and collective action, and developing two main analytical lenses to explain both the potential and the challenges of law-based advocacy, or legal mobilization. The first lens draws on social movement theory (from legal/political opportunity structures to cause lawyering). The second lens draws on rights-based approaches to understanding social justice advocacy (from locally grounded initiatives to transnational movements).
In the second part of the course, we explore how legal mobilization as a practice tries to influence lawmaking processes, how the law constrains collective action, and how existing laws and institutions can be leveraged to realize social change, drawing on concrete examples from all around the world. We explore how especially economic and social rights, but also civil and political rights can be organised ‘from below’, including among socially excluded groups, as well as with support from legal and non-legal advocacy. The course provides room for critical reflections. In what can seem unpromising circumstances, the course sketches some prospect for social transformation.
Case studies are central to the teaching method in this course. Various analytical approaches that are introduced reflect on practices and on lessons learned from analysing experience. Through in-class assessments and active student participation, the course is designed to develop attitudinal skills and confidence, alongside analytical skills depending on critical reading of texts and contexts.
At the end of this course, students are able to:
Explain how laws, legal values, institutions, strategic alliances and networks affect the mobilizing of rights;
Explain how different forms of formal and informal, mainly rights-based legal mobilization can address social exclusion, human insecurity, rights deficits and other forms of social injustice;
Apply the above insights to a specific problem of social injustice in an essay that provides an academic argument on how a rights-based legal mobilization claim has the potential to address that problem and overcome structural challenges in the realization of that claim.
This course is offered by the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (location The Hague). For information on the schedule, please contact the coordinator of the master Law and Society (Danielle Chevalier).
Mode of instruction
Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5
Names of lecturers: Jeff Handmaker, Daphina Misiedjan and others
Required preparation by students: reading assigned materials
Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5
Names of instructors: Jeff Handmaker, Daphina Misiedjan and others
Required preparation by students: individually preparing 5 minutes of a longer group presentation.
Active student participation is essential and reading the required texts in advance of the relevant sessions is vital, so that participants can contribute to class discussions.
The assessment consists of an in-class presentation (15%) and a final essay (85%).
All components should at least obtain a mark of 5,5 in order for the student to complete the course successfully. If this is not the case, the lowest partial grade will be registered as final grade.
Students who fail the course can do a retake of the final essay.
Grades remain valid for the academic year in which they were attained.
To be announced.
Obligatory course materials
to be announced.
Some indicative readings
Handmaker, Jeff and Arts, Karin (2019) Mobilising International Law for ‘Global Justice’ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mutua, Makau W. (2016) Human Rights Standards: Hegemony, Law, and Politics. Buffalo: SUNY Press.
Nyamu-Musembi, Celestine & Andrew Cornwall (2004) ‘Putting the ‘Rights-Based Approach’ to Development into Perspective’ 25(8) Third World Quarterly, 1415-1437.
Vanhala, Lisa (2014) Making Rights a Reality? Disability Rights Activists and Legal Mobilization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
This course is offered by the International Institute for Social Studies of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (location The Hague). For information on registration, please contact the coordinator of the master Law and Society (Danielle Chevalier).
Coordinator: Danielle Chevalier
Work address: KOG (Steenschuur 25 Leiden)
Telephone number: 071 – 527 1039
Institute: The Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law
Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society
Room number secretary: KOG (Steenschuur 25 Leiden), room B1.14
Opening hours: Monday till Thursday and Friday morning
Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7260
This course is offered by the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (location The Hague). For information on registration, the schedule or the digital learning environment, please contact the coordinator of the master Law and Society (Danielle Chevalier).