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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



Jan 28 – May 11

Program Countries

Chile, Jordan, Nepal, United States

Program Base

USA, Nepal, Jordan, Chile

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Identity & Human Resilience


Why a Comparative Study of Human Rights?

Go beyond the halls of power to learn how individuals and communities are giving momentum to grassroots, human rights movements across four countries. Connect with groups working for immigrant and gender rights and against structural racism in New York City, and critically examine the deep roots of human rights movements throughout the United States. Travel next to Nepal, Jordan, and Chile, where you’ll meet with scholars, members of Parliament, feminist leaders, staff of international non-governmental organizations, United Nations officials, indigenous community members, and refugees. Gain deeper insight into multilayered perspectives on human rights, often against the backdrop of governments in tectonic shift, and understand pathways to enacting human rights-based change. Explore how COVID-19 has shifted the conversations on human rights and highlighted global economic inequity. 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.


  • Meet some of New York’s most prominent human rights leaders.
  • Study labor, migration, and gender issues in the stunning rural south of Nepal.
  • Speak with refugee and humanitarian organizations. Program excursion includes one night at a camp in the desert sands of Wadi Rum.
  • Camp in in the desert sands of Wadi Rum during a program excursion.
  • Learn about cultural resistance and land rights from Mapuche indigenous communities in Chile.


Previous college-level coursework or background in anthropology, history, economics, sociology, gender studies social justice, psychology, or political science, as assessed by SIT. Coursework or background in human rights, philosophy, religion, or ethics is recommended but not required.

program map

Program Sites

United States: New York

(10 days)

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 community organizers, city officials, and activists working to advance housing, immigrant, worker and LGBTQI+ rights and fight racism in the criminal justice system.

Nepal: Kathmandu

(4+ 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 in 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 perspectives on the array of human rights violations arising from geopolitical conflicts in the region. For decades, Jordan has received Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees; in fact, 70 percent of the country’s population once identified as refugees. Study the historical and contemporary origins of refugee populations by visiting refugee communities and refugee-focused NGOs in and around refugee camps, with a strong focus on gender rights. Also take excursions to historic sites like Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea.

Chile: Santiago

(4+ 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 Santiago touring sites like the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and Villa Grimaldi. Then, travel to the Mapuche territories of southern Chile to farms in the Andes. Meet with feminist leaders, historians, and student activists, as well as officials from the UN and NGOs.

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.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Analyze historical dynamics of power that shape local social hierarchies, forms of oppression, and dehumanization. 
  • Construct a learning environment that embodies the praxis of human rights while working collaboratively with program partners and local communities. 
  • Use the political history of human rights frameworks to assess the opportunities and shortcomings of rights discourse.  
  • Analyze how experiences of colonialism, capitalism, development, and globalization shape local human rights governance and resistance.  
  • Analyze multiple dimensions, strategies, and actors of social change, and the deep importance of social mobilization for social change.   
  • Assess the politics of research and knowledge production in relation to human rights, power, and resistance. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


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.

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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 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. This course is grounded in the local specificities of human rights in practice for each site.

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.

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.

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.

Homestays / Housing


Student accommodations will include a mix of homestays, hostels, guesthouses, and small hotels/dorms. Students will experience homestays where possible, given COVID-19, and will be oriented as they move from place to place.

More About Homestay Experiences:

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.

Azim Khan, PhD bio link
Azim Khan, PhD
Program Director and Faculty
Dustie Spencer, PhD bio link
Dustie Spencer, PhD
Visiting Faculty
Mabel Cobos, MA bio link
Mabel Cobos, MA
Country Coordinator, Chile
Majd Abu Salem, PhD bio link
Majd Abu Salem, PhD
Country Coordinator, Jordan
Yanik Shrestha bio link
Yanik Shrestha
Country Coordinator, Nepal

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    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 nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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