HUMR5502 – Dealing with Diversity: Human Rights Approaches to Ethnic Conflict

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course addresses challenges faced by States with culturally or ethnically heterogeneous populations within their borders. With a multi-disciplinary and case-oriented approach, it will consider the state’s moral, political, and legal responses to these challenges. The course will offer comparative perspectives on the development of legal and political orders in nations-states and regional entities in response to the standards of the international human rights system. Case studies may vary, but will usually include Guatemala, China (PRC), Indonesia, Norway, South Sudan and the Palestine. Issues such as democratic theory, ethnicity, group identity formation, federalism, autonomy, self-determination, indigenous rights, minority rights - and non-discrimination will be addressed. The perennial tensions between group and individual rights will be discussed and it will be seen, that also “rights – based approaches” have their limitations.

Learning outcome


After having completed this course the student will have acquired knowledge about:

  • The historical development of different legal and political orders and the evolution of the relevant standards of the international human rights system
  • The formation of group identity and the social organisation of cultural distinctiveness
  • The collective dimension of human rights and collective rights in the international human rights system
  • Problems and tensions in protecting, promoting and fulfilling individual rights while considering group claims—international and domestic protection mechanisms
  • Federalism, legal pluralism and autonomy for minorities and indigenous peoples


After having completed this course the student will be able to:

  • Analyse ethnic conflict from the perspectives of law, political science and anthropology and understand its cultural, political and legal aspects
  • Appreciate the difficulties of creating and implementing state policies in situations with ethnic tension
  • Detect processes of group identity formation and the grounding of identity in political and legal systems
  • Understand the possible roles of human rights in ethnic conflict

General competence

Having completed this course the student will have the competence to:

  • Appreciate how different legal and political orders respond to situations of ethnic heterogeneity
  • Carry out a multidisciplinary analysis of a case of ethnic conflict
  • Suggest human rights-based solutions to ethnic conflict


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

You may register for this course if you have admission to a Master's programme at UiO. All applicants must fill the formal prerequisites.

Students admitted to other Master's programmes may apply for guest student status.


Recommended previous knowledge

Students with no background in human rights studies are strongly advised to prepare in advance the recommended readings.


Lectures and seminars with active student participation.


Written assignment, maximum 4000 words, assignments with text exceeding the word limit will not be sent to grading.

Use of sources and rules for citing.

Be sure that you are familiar with the use of sources and the rules for citing/quoting from others’ work
UiO uses a plagiarism checking tool as one of several instruments for detecting suspicion of cheating and attempted cheating.

Previous exam papers

Examination support material

Auxiliary materials allowed during examinations for courses taught in English.

Recommended/Special Material


Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Marking criteria

This  guide is used by examiners for grading this course.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If a student has submitted a written assignment a second time in the same course s/he can only submit it in a new version. This means that there must be another title and theme, or that the new version must be considerably changed from the first version.

Students who wish to retake the exam in a later semester are not guaranteed that the course is ever repeated with a similar reading list, nor that the exam arrangement will be the same.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take this exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

There are special rules for resitting a passed examination in the master's programme in Law.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every autumn

This course will not be offered autumn 2022 due to sabbatical. The course might be offered again autumn 2023


Every autumn

Teaching language