Brothers in Arms: War, States, and Human Rights

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 22, 2019 - August 02, 20197/22 - 8/02M-F 8:30A-11:20AOpenRebecca Martin

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Course Description

Wars have scarred our world. They shape and define the political units we live in, they affect our economic lives, from the content of our shopping cart to the price of gas, and they infiltrate into our very social networks, defining friends and foes. For some, wars claim even greater prices. For others, wars are not only beneficial, but crucial for survival. In this course we will examine the ways in which individuals and human rights relate to wars, including wars fought in order to protect human rights.

The course will be divided into three themes. First, after learning about what war is and what human rights are, we will examine the most immediate effects of wars on those closest to the battle ground. We will look at the descriptions provided by both soldiers and civilians from both sides of the conflict, specifically in recent armed conflicts, such as the Gaza wars of 2008-2014. Some of the key issues will address the freedom from torture, right to life, and the right to self-determination. For example, we will wonder whether the right to self-determination of an occupied people justifies war, given the effects on human life and flourishing.

Second, we will widen our perspective to ask about the effects of wars on those farther away. How do wars affect citizens of states who are not part of the conflict? Here we will examine questions of immigration, aid giving, and the responsibility to protect. Lastly, we will consider the effects of war on future generations. Just like previous wars left us with certain duties and rights, so will our wars shape the lives of the generations to follow. Some interesting questions will consider the effects of war on the environment and their impact on the character of states.

By the end of the course, students will have achieved three goals. First, they will develop informed and well-reasoned positions, who will be useful for them later, both in academic settings and as voters. Second, students will be able to critically evaluate academic texts, including political theory, social science research, and policy documents. Third, through the written assignments of the course, students will be able to write a college-level paper with clear thesis, learn how to effectively address counter-arguments, and improve their writing skills.

Prerequisites: No theoretical background is required. The course is open to all school grade levels. Students who are interested in International Relations, Global Justice, and Conflict Resolution will find this course especially relevant to their interests.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0956
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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