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Minority Rights



Should national minorities be granted territorial autonomy? Should a minority language be recognized as an official language in a given state? Do religious groups have a right to be accommodated in the public domain? Questions such as these are subject to the heated debate about the existence and content of minority rights. Defenders of minority rights hold that members of minorities are disadvantaged and excluded based on their membership in particular groups, and for this reason, they should be granted a special set of rights. The critics object that the minority’s claims can be met through the standard set of individual rights equal for all citizens. The debate ultimately boils down to the question of the most adequate model of citizenship in modern, pluralistic societies. While traditional liberal approaches define citizenship as the identical set of rights granted to all citizens, the defenders of minority rights typically argue in favor of more differentiated citizenship (i.e. one that grants different rights to members of distinct groups). In this course, we will engage with the debate by examining the justification, recognition and protection of minority rights. To make our task more manageable, we will focus on national and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and immigrants. We will attempt to answer some of the fundamental questions such as whether groups can bear rights, and if yes, what the implications for individual rights of their members are. What about groups that demand the right to restrict rights of some of their members? What are fair terms of integration of newcomers in modern, pluralistic societies? What are the best ways to protect the linguistic, cultural and political rights of minorities? We will also attempt to determine the nature of some of the existing minority claims and evaluate them through the lenses of these theoretical debates.

Course objectives

Upon the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between descriptive and normative claims concerning minority rights

  • Reconstruct and critically evaluate the main theoretical positions on minority rights

  • Identify and evaluate existing minority claims of their choice in terms of these theoretical positions

  • Construct their own arguments and identify reasons to support them in oral and written form.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in seminar form, combining short lectures and class discussions in plenary and small groups.

Assessment method

Participation: 20%
Short written assignments: 30%
Final paper: 50%

Reading list

The course syllabus, including the complete reading list will be made available on Brightspace before the start of the course.


See tab 'Practical Information'




Dr Jelena Belic,