RSOS4950 – Torture, Surveillance and Rights

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Starting with philosophical reflections on the nature of torture and surveillance, the course takes you through ethical, historical, legal, and cultural aspects of intelligence gathering practices, with a special focus on torture and surveillance as information- and knowledge-producing strategies in “the war against terror

Learning outcome


At the end of the course, you will have obtained thorough knowledge of some of the most central questions and positions in contemporary debates about torture and surveillance:

  •  what is torture and can it ever be morally justified?

  •  what can we learn about torture and surveillance from the history of the social sciences, criminal justice and warfare?

  •  what are the limits and possibilities of contemporary surveillance practices in “the war against terror”?

  •  how should torture and surveillance be situated in a wider social and cultural context?


Students will:

  • learn to interpret, analyze and critically discuss scholarly texts, official documents and cultural representations with a view to their possible implications for social and political practices;

  • learn to compare and evaluate moral, political and legal ideals and proposals


Students will:

  • enhance their capability to question and discuss urgent and sensitive aspects of contemporary social and political realities;

  • enhance their capability to formulate and reflect on their own ideas of the legitimacy of means and ends in the (in)security state


The course is part of the programmes Kriminologi (master - to år) and Rettssosiologi (master - to år).

Students with admission to other master programmes at UiO and exchange students may also register for this course.




Students are graded on the basis of a final 7-day take-home exam that you deliver electronically in Inspera.

Size: Maximum 4000 words (roughly 10 pages). Front page, contents page (optional) and bibliography are not included. If footnotes are used in the text (at the bottom of each page), they are included in the 4000 word limit. Papers that exceed the 4000 word limit will be disallowed.

Any exam at the University of Oslo is being checked for both correct word count and incidents of cheating.

Language of examination

The language of examination is English. It is also possible to submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

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.

Explanations and appeals

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Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2018

Autumn 2016


Spring 2018

Autumn 2016

Teaching language