IHP Human Rights

Movements, Power & Resistance

Investigate the historical and social contexts of human rights movements, including the roles of culture, identity, political economy, and international law.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Courses taught in



Feb 6 ‎– May 18

Program Countries

Nepal, Jordan

Program Base

Jordan, Nepal

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon


Why Study Human Rights?

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, like COVID-19, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.

Go beyond the halls of power to learn how individuals and communities are giving momentum to grassroots, human rights movements across four different countries. Connect with groups working for immigrant and gender rights and against structural racism in New York City, and see journalism’s place in these struggles on a studio tour of the news program Democracy Now! (fall). Critically examine the deep roots of human rights movements throughout the U.S. South (spring). Travel to Nepal, Chile, and Jordan, where you’ll meet with a wide range of scholars, members of Parliament, feminist leaders, international non-governmental organizations, United Nations officials, indigenous communities, and refugees. Gain a deeper insight into multilayered perspectives on human rights issues, often against the backdrop of governments in tectonic shift, and understand pathways to enacting human rights-based change. Along the way, you’ll explore how to live, act, teach, and learn in ways that affirm human dignity, uproot oppression, and advance collective struggles for rights and justice everywhere.


  • Study labor, migration, and gender issues in the stunning rural south of Nepal.
  • Speak with refugees in Jordan and camp in the desert sands of Wadi Rum.
  • Learn about cultural resistance and land rights from Mapuche indigenous communities in Chile.
  • Meet some of New York’s most prominent leaders in the field of human rights. (For Fall)


Coursework in social sciences such as anthropology, history, economics, sociology, and/or political science. Humanities coursework (philosophy, religion, and/or ethics) is also recommended.

Program Sites


(2 weeks)

Starting in New York City, critically examine the United States’ relationship with human rights. Visit some of the most prominent international human rights bodies in the world, from the United Nations to Amnesty International, and study historical perspectives to the present day. Meet a wide range of community organizers, city officials, and activists working to advance human rights causes, from housing to immigrant rights, from LGBTQ rights to anti-racism in the criminal justice system, as well as workers’ rights.

Nepal: Kathmandu

(5 weeks)

Nepal became a parliamentary democracy in 2006 after a decade of conflict pitting Maoist rebels against the Hindu monarchy. The nation-building process has been long, and you will be exposed to its intricacies, from crafting a viable constitution that guarantees equal rights to a multi-ethnic country to issues surrounding wartime abuses, including enforced disappearances, rape, torture, and extrajudicial executions. In Kathmandu, meet with lawyers and activists working to ensure a more just future in Nepal.

Jordan: Amman

(4 weeks)

As a safe haven in the Middle East, Jordan offers a way to explore the array of human rights violations arising from geopolitical conflicts in the region. For decades, Jordan has received Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees. Study the historical and contemporary origins of refugee populations by visiting with refugee communities and refugee-focused NGOs in and around refugee camps, with a strong emphasis on gender rights. Also take excursions to historic sites like Petra and the Dead Sea.

Chile: Valparaiso

(5 weeks)

After the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, a transition to democracy has come with both the reconciliation of history and the continuation of neoliberal policies that make Chile a profoundly unequal society. Spend the first half of your time in Valparaiso, the cultural capital of Chile, connecting with grassroots activists at the heart of Chile’s current social movements. Meet with feminist leaders, historians, and student activists, as well as officials from the UN and NGOs.  Then, travel to the Mapuche territories of southern Chile to learn about the legacy of indigenous resistance. Finish the semester at a program retreat by the Pacific Ocean near Isla Negra.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.



Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • The relationships of human rights, activism, and popular movements
  • Root causes of struggles for human rights in different locations
  • Individual and collective strategies used to advance human rights
  • Intricacies of the UN human rights framework and how it came to be
  • Global “Human Rights” regime vs bottom-up “human rights” movements

Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights

Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights – syllabus
(HMRT3000 / 4 credits)

Taking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and related international covenants as a point of departure, this course interrogates how civil, political, social, and economic rights are constructed, co-opted, and contested and how human rights are advanced and denied in the context of global politics and economics, the UN system, and international law. In doing so, the course foregrounds the praxis of global human rights regimes, critically examining disconnects between human rights in theory and practice as well as instances when human rights doctrine tangibly abets social change. Thematically, the course begins by critically analyzing the historical context that gave rise to the “Human Rights” establishment; history of the UN, creation of the UDHR, the splitting of the Covenants, and the development of concurrent human rights treaties and instruments. Next, the course examines the ways in which these international human rights doctrines map to the local contexts of Nepal, Jordan, and Chile, as expressed through contemporary human rights struggles in each site. This embeddedness, in the localized experiences of human rights praxis in three different locales, affords fertile opportunity for comparative analysis illuminating the tensions, opportunities, hypocrisies, limitations, and attainments of international human rights norms and instruments. In order to ground this course in the local specificities of human rights in practice, this course is taught by local faculty in each of the four program sites.

Comparative Issues in Human Rights

Comparative Issues in Human Rights – syllabus
(HMRT3500 / 4 credits)

Drawing from interdisciplinary lenses such as cultural and ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and postcolonial scholarship, this course offers analytical tools to study the nature of oppression and dehumanization and the possibilities for human rights to shape humanizing alternatives. Through selected readings and focused discussions, this course critically considers how historical processes such as colonialism, development, globalization, and neoliberalism shape contemporary human rights governance and resistance. This course forefronts questions of power that underlie human rights practices, challenging students to situate themselves in relationship to global social inequalities. Through the course, students are encouraged to reflect on ways they can exercise individual and group agency to interrupt social inequities in the world around them. This course is taught by traveling faculty.

The Role of Civil Society: Grassroots Movements and NGOs

The Role of Civil Society: Grassroots Movements and NGOs – syllabus
(SDIS3320 / 4 credits)

The latter half of the twentieth-century gave rise to a large and diverse sector of civil society organizations working at multiple scales, utilizing a variety of approaches to achieve human rights–based change. Though the aims, intentions, and impact of these organizations is contested, the constellation of actors working toward human rights under the umbrella of civil society has become a defining feature of contemporary human rights practice. This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the diverse configurations of these civil society organizations: NGOs, legal advocacy organizations, grassroots community-based organizations, social movement networks, etc., as well as familiarity with the differing strategies of change they employ. The course is tied together under the cross-cutting theme of struggles for women’s rights and gender justice. This course is taught by local faculty, each of whom are directly involved in struggles for gender equity through their work with civil society organizations. Course faculty draw from their experiences as advocates, grassroots organizers, and lawyers, utilizing different strategies of resistance to effect change. By experiencing firsthand a broad spectrum of civil society organizations within the sphere of women’s rights, students are challenged to come to their own conclusions on how to bridge the gap between human rights rhetoric and reality. This is a practicum course composed of classroom-based sessions with local faculty and field-based activities such as workshops, site visits, and guest lectures in each program site.

Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods

Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits)

Research is a central tool in human rights praxis. Documenting and reflecting on violence, resistance, and imagination, it can support — if not drive — humanizing movements and transnational solidarity, unashamedly joining in projects of social justice. At the same time, it carries a dehumanizing potential. Research was and is also a central tool in imperialist projects; dividing the world into subjects and objects, into those who Know and those who are Known. This course holds both the humanizing and dehumanizing potentials of research in tension as it guides students through the theoretical, conceptual, and practical process for gathering, analyzing, and understanding their own primary research. The course is the foundation for a cumulative study project involving research in all three countries and culminating in a paper and presentation at the end of the semester. This course is taught by traveling faculty.

Homestays / Housing

Homestays / Housing

Live with a host family for between two and five weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are your primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.

Family structures will vary. For example, a host family may include a single mother of two small children, or a large extended family with many people coming and going. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you would expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.

In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. Information about homestay families will only be available upon arriving in each country.

Career Paths

Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Fellow at Amnesty International, New York, NY

  • Employment specialist at International Rescue Committee, New York, NY

  • Outreach coordinator at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, New York, NY

  • Executive director at Children and Youth First, Kathmandu, Nepal

Faculty & Staff

IHP Human Rights: Movements, Power & Resistance

The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.

Chris Westcott, MA
Program Director
Carmen Luz Morales
Co-Country Coordinator, Chile
Kierra Sims
Coordinator, Atlanta and East Tennessee
Lucas Shapiro
Coordinator, New York City
Mabel Cobos, MA
Co-Country Coordinator, Chile
Sam Ryals
Program Manager
Yanik Shrestha
Country Coordinator, Nepal
Brian Kamanzi
Trustees’ Fellow
Rafaela Rodriguez, MSW
Trustees' Fellow
Umud Dalgic, PhD
Traveling Faculty
Whitney Richards-Calathes, PhD
Traveling Faculty

Discover the Possibilities


    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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