Culture and HR Lesson 1 What Are Human Rights?
Culture and HR Lesson 1 What Are Human Rights?


This lesson focuses on the basic idea of human rights, particularly as it is expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Both instructor and students should collaboratively explore the following questions: What are rights?  What counts as ‘human’?  What is the role of culture in conceptualizing both humans and rights?  How does cultural variation affect human rights around the world?

Relevant Learning Objectives  

  1. Identify and describe the main instruments and mechanisms of the international human rights regime, and the global causes to which these instruments respond.
  2. Discuss the relation between culture, humanity, and rights.
  3. Discuss the problems of cultural universality and diversity in regards to implementing human rights at the international, national, and local scales.
  4. Understand the global significance and controversies of human rights in the 21st century.


Possible Classroom Activities


Optional Readings

  • Cowan, J. K. (2006) “Culture and Rights after Culture and Rights,American Anthropologist 108(1), 9-24.
  • Goodale, M. (2006) “Toward a Critical Anthropology of Human Rights,” Current Anthropology 47(3), 485-511.
  • Sen, A. (2005) “Human Rights and Capabilities,” Journal of Human Development 6(2), 151-166.
  • University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (n.d). Retrieved from:

Culture and HR Lesson 2 What Are The Core Human Rights Instruments?