Faculty of Arts

Course Descriptions

Core Courses (Semesters 1–2)

HRSJ5010 Foundations of Human Rights and Social Justice

Students examine themes of human rights and social justice and enhance their engagement with social change towards justice and fairness at local, national and transnational settings. Students examine various relevant theoretical approaches such as universalism/relativism, equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), intersectionality, distributive justice, critical race theory, disability theory, feminist analysis and the role of social and political structures, among others. Thematic areas covered in this class may include practical application of theoretical approaches in international and domestic contexts, such as human rights laws, social movements and activism, human rights procedures, torture and lack of legal process, standards and remedies, the duty to accommodate, access to justice, disability rights, Aboriginal rights, decolonization and reconciliation, refugee and immigrant rights, intersecting discrimination and oppression, international human rights instruments, governance and transnational governance, conflict resolution, humanitarian intervention, or peace education.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5020 Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Resurgence of Land Based Pedagogies and Practices

This course creates a space to introduce students to Indigenous land-based epistemologies within an interdisciplinary framework of Indigenous law, geography, social work, education, health and wellness. Through an alignment with Indigenous intergenerational land-based contexts, practices, and processes, students will have the opportunity to experience and articulate ethical modes of living that respect Indigenous self-determination and sovereignties. This course will take an experiential approach that centres Indigenous knowledges and considers the land as the primary text and instructor for this course. The course considers how forces of colonialism and violence through policies and practices systematically block Indigenous access to the land and how diverse resistance and resurgence movements are asserting Indigenous rights in relation to food, water, education, ceremony, and movement. Everyday acts of resurgence on the land will be considered including protocols and practices by a diverse collective of Indigenous peoples in diverse relationships to land.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5030 Problem Solving in the Field: Study Techniques and Methods

Social science and humanities field research is a multidisciplinary practice which takes place over a variety of contexts and locations. Students will engage with quantitative and qualitative epistemologies and methodologies. The course will move from the basic research question, through methodological research choices and ethical implications, to a comprehensive research proposal and ethics application. Students may choose to use this work as a thesis or project proposal.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

Elective Courses (Semesters 1–4)

HRSJ5110 Genocide in the 20th Century

Students take an interdisciplinary approach to the complex issues of genocide from a philosophical, historical, and literary perspective. Variable elements of the course will include particular case studies of genocide, the use of language, the role of eugenics and colonialism, ethical and moral considerations, and international efforts to define and tackle the various kinds of genocide. Using a variety of sources and methodologies, students will start to formulate an original contribution to the increasingly important field of genocide studies.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5120 Settler Colonialism: Decolonization and Responsibility

In this course students will explore how settler colonialism operates as a distinct ongoing structure rather than an historical event. Settler colonialism is examined as a cultural project of overt colonial domination producing a new entity, such as Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Settler colonialism is thus premised on the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous Peoples from land. By examining how settler colonialism emerged out of colonial expansion and domination globally and attending to the ways in which it manifests and maintains itself locally, students will examine themselves in relation to settler colonialism and consider how it can be unsettled.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5130 Body Rights: Systems and Social Movements

This course explores the ways that body rights are understood, accepted, and contested in global historical and contemporary case studies. Through an intersectional lens, students deepen their understanding of theoretical, social, and historical underpinnings of body rights. Cases are explored to allow students to investigate systemic inequalities and consider ways to advocate for body rights in different local and global contexts.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5140 Art, Media and Dissent: Bridging the Local and the Global from the Guerilla Girls to the #MeTooMovement

Investigating a series of diverse case studies, students explore the art, sociology and media practices of feminist social movements. Students investigate, analyze and critique the goals and achievements of feminist social movements, the complex media practices that emerge from and about them, and the artistic practice and production they generate. Students consider feminist issues such as the body and autonomy, sexual violence, environmentalism, and access to public and digital space in the context of activism and mobilization, evaluating the opportunities and challenges in building social justice frameworks for women in society.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5150 Truth to Power: Promoting Social Change on Stage and Screen

This course probes creative expressions of social justice issues on stage and screen in a variety of forms, from conventional to avant garde. Students examine significant script-to-play-to-film adaptations that engage human rights and social justice, analyzing these texts using tools drawn from creative writing, theatre studies, media studies, as well as critical and adaptation theories. Students have the opportunity to create their own stage play or screenplay that promotes change on a social justice issue.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5160 Social Justice and Networked Culture: Digital Communities, Mediated Identities and Online Journalism

Students examine the technologies, structures and practices of networked culture to analyze the implications for human rights and social justice. Students investigate the inherent tensions within the myths of an open and accessible internet in the contexts of challenging structural inequalities and social constructs of identity, accessing public discourse, and building and sustaining robust civic media. Engaging various theoretical perspectives on networked culture and communication, students question what can be communicated, by whom and for what purposes in networked space, evaluating online practices and platforms as productive tools for social justice projects.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5210 Law, Human Rights and Theories of Justice

This course examines the history, nature, and scope of the concept of rights: legal rights, civil rights, political rights and human rights, both as these pertain to individuals and as they pertain to groups and collectivities. We will trace the history of rights theory from early social contract theories (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau) to contemporary theories of rights and justice. Students will examine the relation between rights, conceptions of justice and power relations; how conceptions of rights may promote or inhibit the social advancement of particular groups; and how rights have been connected to people from equity-seeking groups in theory and in practice. Students will learn how rights gradually were expanded as the ideal of social justice became more prevalent.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5220 Trauma, Rights and Justice: From War and Gender-Based Violence to Peacebuilding

What is gender-based violence? What does gender-based violence in the context of war and conflict look like? What are the possibilities for peacebuilding and healing of trauma after war and conflict? This course invites students to tackle these complex issues through an interdisciplinary lens with a focus on human rights. Students will engage in critical analysis of social justice challenges, and potential solutions, for issues of gender-based violence in situations of war and conflict.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5230 States, Violence, Revolutions and the Emergence of Global Capitalism

Students explore the history and development of political modern structures such as the nation- state and the capitalist global order through processes of social and political revolution, war and pacification, liberal constitutionalism and democratization; they discuss cosmopolitanism and its relationship to contemporary awareness of global interconnection. Students trace the patterns of conflict and cooperation between state actors and social groups at local, regional, national and transnational levels. They explore topics such as nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, civil war, sub-national conflict, terrorism, genocide, decolonization, humanitarian intervention, and reconciliation. They also examine key questions in the contemporary world from the perspectives of different social science disciplines and draw on core theories related to cosmopolitanism, constructivism, materialism and post-structuralism, and consider how states can peacefully coexist in an anarchistic world system.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5240 Water: A Case Study of Human Rights and Social Justice in the Age of Climate Change

At the onset of the current millennium Edward Burtinsky’s large-scale photographs of the world’s landscapes dramatized the social politics around water resources in the Anthropocene. Burtinsky’s iconic photographs, of such sites as China’s Three Gorges Dam, the Gulf of Mexico or the glaciers of British Columbia, draw upon centuries-old conventions of the landscape sublime, complicating the relationship of social and ecological challenges wrought by industrialization of the world’s waterways to long-standing traditions of cultural production in the west. The presence of the social politics around water in the practices of recent and contemporary artists looks to the past and forward in time as, for example, with artist and ethno-botanist T'uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss’s interest in recreating shell mounds along the shores of Vancouver’s False Creek in recognition of the ancient function of those mounds as “beacons of the shorelines [that] were the visual stories of the people who lived in harmony with the natural world”. This course, drawing from local, regional, national and international examples, will provide an overview of hydrology, water resources, and water resources “management”, and will couple these scientific and engineering perspectives of water with the cultural significance of water, water as a human right, water as a common heritage, and the rights of water itself. Topics covered include water, peace and international conflict; water laws and policies, the privatization of water; water education; Indigenous peoples’ laws and perspectives on water; gender inequality and access to water; water and health; water policy, and future water supplies under projected climate change scenarios. Course field components will be used to ensure that students are physically invested in opportunities to experientially engage with the overlapping and, at times contested, histories and terrain of methods coming from the perspectives of Indigenous knowledge, Western science and artists’ practices of working outside gallery settings.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5250 Risk, Place, and Social Justice in a Turbulent World

This course investigates different types of risks in society and the different populations, places and life experiences associated with these risks, the forms of planning and practices to reduce risks, the gaps in knowledge and policies in addressing particular risks, and media coverage of differing types of risks. A case study approach allows for different disciplines to be integrated through varied readings from sociology, history, politics and environmental studies in assessing through social justice the inclusionary / exclusionary practices in addressing risks
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5260 Labour Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Fashion and Apparel Industry

Drawing on geography, sociology and law, contemporary capitalism is examined as a system connecting extraction, production, consumption, and disposal at different spatial scales and across political jurisdictions, as well as differing cultural and social contexts. Beginning with the moral economists’ critique of capitalism and its redefinition of human relations, this course examines economic globalization under de-regulated capitalism through the lens of the global fashion and apparel industry. This sector's complex impact on areas such as resources, land, labour, Indigenous peoples and consumer behaviour shapes this course's exploration of contemporary concerns and alternative visions. The law and legal institutions are examined as key technologies constituting, not only economic globalization, but also the tools that social movements employ to pursue justice.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5270 Health for All: Global Inequities, Social Determinants and Medical Care

This course canvasses theories from multiple disciplines, including sociology, history, geography, law, and medicine, that attempt to explain health inequities within and across global contexts. Social determinants of health and legal access to treatment are explored within the context of global capitalism. Students assess the role and impact of state-based, international, and community-based responses to health inequities, and develop action-based responses to real-world examples of health inequity. Credits: 3 credits Delivery: Campus

Experiential Course (typically Semester 3)

HRSJ5040 Human Rights and Social Justice Field Experience

With the help of the MA Practicum Coordinator and the Arts Graduate Coordinator, students investigate research problems related to human rights and social justice by working with relevant organizations and groups. With the help of the Arts Graduate Coordinator, students partner with local, provincial, national, or international organizations or groups that do work related to human rights and social justice. Students conduct research or work on research projects developed in agreement with the partner organizations or groups.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus

Completion Options (beginning Semester 2, until graduation)

HRSJ5910 Master of Arts Thesis

Students explore and develop an original and substantial research project related to issues of human rights and social justice. Students completing the thesis completion option work under the direction of a faculty supervisor and a thesis advisory committee. Students completing the thesis option register in this course after completing nine credits at the 5000 level. Students remain enrolled in HRSJ 5910 until they have completed all of the requirements.
Credits: 12 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5920 Master of Arts Creative Research Project

Students develop an original and substantial creative research project related to issues of human rights and social justice. Creative research projects can include, but are not limited to, art exhibits, creative writing, and theatre production. Students completing the creative completion option work under the direction of a faculty supervisor and an advisory committee. Students completing the creative option register in this course after completing nine credits at the 5000 level. Students remain enrolled in HRSJ 5920 until they have completed all of the requirements
Credits: 12 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5930 Master of Arts Research Project

Students develop and research a project, typically in consultation with a partner organization or group, related to issues of human rights and/or social justice. Students completing the research project option work under the supervision of a faculty project advisor. Students completing the research project option can register for this course any time after completing nine credits at the 5000 level. Students remain enrolled in HRSJ 5930 until they have completed all requirements.
Credits: 6 credits
Delivery: Campus

HRSJ5940 Master of Arts e-Portfolio

Students create an e-portfolio summarizing their experiences and learning within the MA program. Students enrol in HRSJ 5940 if they have decided to take the course-based completion option for the MA, and they work with a faculty supervisor. Students can enrol in HRSJ 5940 after having completed nine credits at the 5000 level, but typically do not finish the e-portfolio until they have completed all required credits for the MA HRSJ.
Credits: 3 credits
Delivery: Campus