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Human Rights, Culture & Social Justice (MA)

Course Description

This MA examines contemporary issues concerning justice. You will learn how to conceptualise and study the possibilities of human rights, going beyond legal formulations to look at the conditions in which human rights claims are made- http://www.gold.ac.uk/pg/ma-human-rights/

Human rights mobilise millions of supporters across borders, inspiring passion and hope. And they operate at and between all the scales involved in globalisation: local, national, international, transnational. They are moral claims to justice. Although often associated with law, human rights are not the same as legal rights – human rights can be claimed where no legal rights are codified, even if changes in the law are invariably called for as part of attempts to realise human rights in practice.

Human rights are carried by different actors:

-grassroots social movements, small Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and huge International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs)
-lawyers and judges
-bureaucrats and experts in Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs) even, sometimes, national politicans
-journalists, novelists, translators, artists, film-makers

These different actors are often at odds with each other in defining and defending particular justifications of what human rights are and should be.

In this Masters you will learn about how human rights are constructed, exploring framings of human rights through case studies; and you will begin to practice some of the methodologies and methods that are currently used in NGOs and grassroots activist networks trying to remedy global injustices.

The focus on culture that runs through the programme makes for an emphasis on concrete, situated practices and meanings. Can human rights contribute to a global culture in which injustices figure as ‘wrongs’? Or are human rights invariably skewed, constructing injustices in ways that suit international elites better than they suit people who are suffering? Do human rights do violence to local cultures? Are they an appropriate response to local violence? In this MA we contextualise the study of how human rights are constructed in micro-processes, in the media and face-to-face in relation to debates over macro-structures, processes of globalisation and the institutions of global governance.

In terms of social justice, the MA is set up to study human rights beyond narrow, legalistic definitions. We look at what really makes a difference in terms of realising human rights in practice. Can human rights really be constructed in ways that challenge and overturn established social structures? Can rights be claimed in such a way that they can really protect us as human beings against the ‘creative destruction’ of global capitalism, state repression, the subjugation of women, and hatred and violence against minorities of all kinds – sexual, ethnic, religious?

This course covers the following disciplines: sociology, politics, anthropology, law, geography, english, literature, cultural studies, criminology

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Kate Nash.

Modules & Structure

The MA in Human Rights, Culture and Social Justice is taught in the Department of Sociology, where there are a number of people who are working on areas broadly related to human rights as well as directly on how human rights are constructed and claimed.

In the first part of the course you will take the core module ‘Constructing Human Rights’ in which you will be introduced to debates over the possibilities of human rights, different ways of conceiving culture and the role that is played by a diverse range of organisations involved in challenging injustices connected to globalisation. You will also consider practical attempts to realise human rights.

You will take two short, skills-oriented modules 'Researching Human Rights' and 'Organising Human Rights' in which you will be introduced to methods and skills that will be of direct practical use in working for NGOs (eg evaluating user engagement, team-building and decision-making through role play, tracing the media impact of a campaign).

In the second term, you will choose among a number of options. You can choose to take 'Practicing Human Rights' and make use of some of the skills you have learned in a placement. Students who choose this option find and negotiate a placement in an organisation or a grassroots campaign whose work can be related to human rights and attend a series of workshops that allow them to reflect on the practical work, on their professional skills and on the broader significance of their observations.

While the core modules of the programme are taught by lecturers in Sociology, you may choose your option modules from those that are run here or in other departments, including Politics, Media and Communications, and Anthropology.

Finally you will write a dissertation based on research you will carry out, possibly related to the NGO or network you have worked in, and making use of a range of concepts and methods taught in the Department. You will be supervised by someone with expertise and interest in the topic you are studying and the methodologies and methods you plan to use.

Option modules

You will choose option modules worth 60 credits in Sociology, Media and Communications, the Centre for Cultural Studies, English and Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Politics, Music and Educational Studies.

This includes the following option module, available to Human Rights students only:

Practising Human Rights (30 credits)
This series of workshops accompanies your placement in an organisation or grassroots activist network. We will discuss diaries that each participant will carry out during the placements in the context of broader debates about human rights on the one hand, and about professional practice, organisations and activism on the other hand. As a requirement for this option, you will negotiate a placement in an organisation whose work can be related to human rights or practical involvement in a grassroots campaign.

Skills & Careers

As issues of globalisation and justice are frequently in the media, and government policy in the UK, US, and elsewhere in Europe is now supposed to be guided by considerations of humanitarianism and human rights, there is a need for graduates with knowledge of human rights.

There are openings for careers in organisations including charities, humanitarian and human rights NGOs and even multi-national corporations, many of which are now concerned with their image in terms of human rights.


Please visit http://www.gold.ac.uk/pg/fees-funding/ for details.

Visit the Human Rights, Culture & Social Justice (MA) page on the Goldsmiths, University of London website for more details!

Student Profiles

Banco Santander Scholarships - 7 Awards

In partnership with Banco Santander, Goldsmiths will be awarding seven scholarships to outstanding candidates from within the Santander Universidades network. Each scholarship provides a £5,000 fee waiver and is tenable for one year only.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Scholarships will be open to students applying to study a taught masters degree (excludes MRes and Masters by Research) in any discipline starting in September 2016. The countries targeted (although not exclusively, should exceptional candidates apply from other eligible countries*) will be:Mexico
* The Santander Universidades scheme covers institutions in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, United Arab Emirates, UK, Uruguay and USA.

Application Procedure

Your scholarship application should be completed online through your myGoldsmiths account. This is the online account that you created in order to apply for a course at Goldsmiths.As part of the application, you'll be asked to answer three questions relevant to the award that you are applying for.For more information, please see the Banco Santander Scholarships page.

Further Information



Goldsmiths Masters Scholarships - 20+ Awards

Please note that scholarship schemes and awards are subject to the availability of funds, and the details given here are subject to change at any time. we therefore encourage you to check this information regularly.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Home and EU students (full-time and part-time).

Application Procedure

Applications for 2015 entry are now closed.

Further Information



The Goldsmiths' Company Postgraduate Bursaries - 4 Awards

Please see website for more details

Value of Scholarship(s)



Students on taught postgraduate programmes (not including MA Filmmaking or PGCEs) starting October 2015. You must be: a UK student; new to postgraduate study; experiencing financial difficulties. You should also demonstrate academic potential and you must not be in receipt of any Goldsmiths, AHRC or ESRC funding.

Application Procedure

Applications for 2015 entry are now closed.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level. IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the written test and no individual test lower than 6.0).

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