ISS-4143 Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice
Weight of the course
Course Leader
Teaching Methods
Modes of Assessment
Jeff Handmaker & Silke Heumann
Karin Arts, Amrita Chhachhi, Jeff Handmaker, Silke Heumann,
Helen Hintjens, Rosalba Icaza Garza, Rachel Kurian, Dubravka
Participatory Lecture, Study Visit
Written Exam 45%, Assignment: 40% (Essay), Group
Assignment(s): 15%
Josée Haanappel
Learning Objectives
After following the course, students have gained a critical understanding of:
the relationship between production of knowledge and the social, political and historical dynamics
within which this production takes place;
key theoretical perspectives on social justice in general, and specifically from the perspectives of
gender, human rights and violent conflict;
Students will also acquire a specific analytical tool (mapping tool) and the skills how to use it, by
which they will be able to:
analyse contemporary economic, political, social and symbolic struggles around issues of social
justice in general, and those related to gender, human rights, violent conflict and social
movements in particular;
distinguish, compare and assess theoretical and strategic possibilities of different social justice
policies, frameworks, actions and movements in the context of globalization.
Course description
The starting assumption of this course is that meanings of justice are neither self-evident, nor fixed.
Rather, they are embedded in specific worldviews, and thus remain a contested terrain both
theoretically, and in practice. The first block of the course is, therefore, dedicated to the understanding
of production of knowledge in general, and about social justice in particular. This first block takes
students through some of the key theoretical and strategic paradigms within which social justice has
been debated and defined – from classical to (neo-)liberal and critical constructivist – linking
perspectives on social justice with perspectives on power, agency and social change. This block also
introduces gender, violent conflict, human rights and social movements as particular fields of study for
which issues of social justice are central. The second block situates social justice struggles within
contemporary global society, exploring contemporary processes of globalization as the setting within
which relations of power operate, social inequalities, exploitation and marginalization take place, and
struggles for economic, political and symbolic justice are organized. Links are made with the
gendered dynamics of inequality, exploitation and violence. Central to this block are geo-political
contestations and contemporary wars, the processes of globalization and evolution of human rights
ideas and normative frameworks, and the role of social movements in defense of social justice.
Indicative readings
Fraser, N. (1996) ‘Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation’, The
Tanner Lectures On Human Values, Salt Lake City, UT: Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah.
Gunter, B.G. and R. van der Hoeven (2004) ‘The Social Dimension of Globalization: A Review of the Literature’,
International Labour Review 143(1-2): 7-43.
Lutz, H., M.T. Herrera Vivar and L. Supik (eds) (2011) Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted
Concept in Gender Studies. Farnham: Ashgate.
Merry, S.E. (2006) Human rights and gender violence: translating international law into local justice. Chicago:
University of Chicago.
Patomäki, H. (2008) ‘Global Justice: A democratic perspective’, in B.K. Gills (ed.), Globalization and the Global
Politics of Justice, pp.10-21. Oxon, UK and New York: Routledge.
Sassen, S, 2003, ‘Globalization or Denationalization?’, Review of International Political Economy, 10(1), 1-22.

ISS-4143 Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice