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Democracy, Human Rights and Social Change



Please see the Registration procedure below.
Only the following categories of students may register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Students enrolled for the Minor CA-OS

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students who have been explicitly admitted to this course

  • Pre-master students who have completed their Admission procedure for the master CA-DS and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the pre-master programme.


Social movements and collective action have emerged in close connection with the development of structural inequalities, marginalization and exclusion on the one hand and the ideas of rights, social justice and entitlements, on the other. Different groups and organizations have built platforms of solidarity and mobilization to make claims and express their grievances targeting either the state or capital or international institutions. If in the past social movements or collective action have emerged and concentrated protest within nation-states or colonial states, with the increasing interconnectedness of different locations and social spaces, hierarchically or vertically, currently social movements have attained global dimensions. The course will explore these topics through historical and contemporary examples including the civil rights movement in the US, 1960s movements, movements against multilateral organizations and neoliberal globalization, the Arab Spring, the 15 May movement and Occupy. Throughout the term we will not only explore what social movements are doing and why, but we will use these movements as a way into an analysis of the larger political questions of our time by exploring the meanings of notions such as: democracy, human rights, crisis, terrorism, the state, violence and social media.

Course objectives

This course will prepare students to examine and discuss social movements as part of global processes but also as being locally embedded. It will look at how local action is ‘externalized’ to become part of global action; and how global social movements are internalized; and how meanings change as politics of contention experience shifts in scale. By concentrating on specific cases students will learn to analyze the interconnection between cultural, political and social dimensions of social movements. The course also provides grounding in the key theoretical debates generated within different disciplines in the social sciences and the contribution of anthropology to these debates.

Specific learning goals are:

  • To learn about major social movements since the 1950s.

  • To learn how to analyze social movements in their historical and political contexts.

  • To become familiar with key terms in the analysis of social movements (tactics, aims, identity, etc).

  • To learn advanced academic skills, such as: how to read a diversity of texts (academic, journalistic, activist) in different ways; how to identify the key arguments in each text; and how to merge the key arguments of each text into a coherent answer to a given question.

  • To develop a better understanding of the current time period of global political upheaval in which we live.



Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • Lectures, Tutorials , Group discussions – 11× 3 hours

  • Literature (ca. 750 pages): 126 sbu

  • 4 bi-weekly assignments: 24 sbu

  • Final paper on topic of student’s choice (3.500 words): 80 sbu

Assesment method

Four bi-weekly assignments (60%) and one final paper (40%)

Re-take is only possible if the final grade is below 6, if student has actively participated in the course and submitted all of the assignments / papers.

Exam registration

Students do not need to register for the exam as this course will not have a classical exam.

Registration in uSis

  • Registration in Usis is obligatory for the lectures (H) for all participants. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.

  • Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • NB: Exchange students: those who have officially been admitted to this course during the Admission Procedure, will be registered in usis by the faculty-administration.


Blackboard will be used to make information and assignments available. Registration on Blackboard is obligatory for all participants.

Reading list

T.b.a. on Blackboard.

Contact information

Dr. Marianne Maeckelbergh