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Democracy, Human Rights and Social Change



A very limited number places are available for this course so only the following categories of students may register:

  • Students enrolled for the Bachelor’s programme “CA-DS” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse. Only ONE third year's course at level 300 is obligatory according to your programme.

  • Students enrolled for the Minor CA-OS who have not followed another CA-OS course on level 300.
    If selection of participants must be made, students who have already followed other "exploration"-courses at level 300 will not be considered.

The following two categories will be registered after completion of the admission procedure:

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

  • Pre-Master’s students who have completed the admission procedure for the Master’s CA-DS and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the Pre-Master’s programme.

Please see the Usis-registration procedure below.


As structural inequalities, marginalization and exclusion have developed, social movements and collective action have emerged in close connection with them, as have the ideas of rights, social justice and entitlements. 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. In the past, social movements or collective action tended to concentrate protest within nation-states or colonial states, but as hierarchical and vertical interconnectedness has increased in various locations and social spaces, current 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 shall explore not only what social movements do or have done and why, but shall use them as exemplars for 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. The course considers how meanings change as the politics of contention experience shifts in scale, and by concentrating on specific cases students will learn to analyse the connection among cultural, political and social dimensions of social movements. The course also provides a grounding in the key theoretical debates generated within different disciplines in the social sciences and the contribution of anthropology to those debates.

Specific learning goals are:

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

  • To learn how to analyse 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 texts of different types (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 period of global political upheaval.

  • To become familiar with Oral History as a research method in anthropology


Dates and room numbers can be found on our website, under "3e jaar, Semester 2, Hoorcolleges".

Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • Lectures - 10 x 3 hours

  • Literature

  • Weekly assignments

  • Final paper on topic of students' choice (3.500 words)

Assesment method

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.

  • 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

To be announced on Blackboard.

Contact information

Dr. Marianne Maeckelbergh