Dalhousie University

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology




Prof.: Dr. Julian Hermida

Course number: 3225

Teaching hours: Wednesdays 19.05-21.05

Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 to 11.30 and Wednesdays 6.15 to 7 or by appointment.

Office: Room 3124

Tel.: 494-6757

Email: julian.hermida@dal.ca





The class examines the interrelation of rights and power cross-culturally. It thus considers how the idea and exercise of rights varies across societies. It also addresses the ways in which rights and relations of power make themselves felt in peopleís everyday lives. Finally, it considers the variety of experiences and understandings of these issues across societies and social groups. Examples will be drawn from social and cultural groups within and outside Canada.






             Knowledge is a constantly evolving process, which can be constructed personally and collectively.

             From an individual perspective, knowledge is personal, socially and historically contextualized, and dependent on psychological variables.

             From the class perspective, knowledge is a collective construction, where all participants can make their contribution.

             In the process of constructing knowledge there is a dialectic relationship between the action and the reflection, where one feeds the other and vice versa.

             Successful learning is based on a personal involvement of students in their own learning.

             The learning environment, including the teaching methods, the teacherís attitude, and the class atmosphere, among other factors, is determinative of the studentsí approach to learning, as well as, the learning outcomes.

             The role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and tutor rather than a lecturer.

             Student peers are a powerful source for learning.

             Evaluation is conceived mainly as a formative element.




This course is conceived so that students can:


1. Understand the interrelation of rights and power cross-culturally.

1.1.   Analyze the different conceptions of rights across societies

1.2.   Recognize the role of the dominant and non dominant classes in the†††††† construction of rights.

1.3.   Recognize the emergence of the concept of rights as a product of the Enlightenment and European culture.

1.4.   Be aware of the absence of rights in early Aboriginal and Anglo Saxon societies.


2. Appreciate and value the diverse cultures and ideas that influence and shape contemporary Canadian institutions and rights system.

2.1 Recognize the influence of Aboriginal, Anglo American and European traditions in the construction of the contemporary Canadian rights system.

2.2. Understand the tension between dominant and adversarial cultures in contemporary Canada.

2.3. Be aware of the distinctive Quebec culture and rights system.

2.4. Value the right of minorities in contemporary Canada.

3. Be aware of the effects of the relationship between power and rights in every day life.

3.1 Understand and value the complexity of the regulation of rights in contemporary society.


4. Recognize the diversity of rights problems in the contemporary world.

4.1. Suggest ways in which some of the rights problems might be overcome.

4.2. Engage in informed discussion of rights, power and culture issues and doctrines.

4.3. Critically evaluate solutions proposed to contemporary problems dealing with rights and power.


5. Apply the theories and doctrines on rights and power to a myriad of contemporary problems.

5.1. Use the knowledge on rights and power to analyze contemporary problems of Canadian society.

5.2. Apply the theories and doctrines on rights and power to propose solutions to some of the current problems of Canadian society.





Deploy a range of advanced transferable skills such as: oral and written communication skills, the accurate exposition of complex arguments and sets of research findings and the critical evaluation of competing explanations or complex arguments relating to some culturally sensitive topics.




Classroom activities will be designed to encourage students to play an active role in the construction of their own knowledge and in the design of their own learning strategies.

We will combine traditional lectures with other active teaching methodologies, such as interactive lecture presentations, cooperative group problem solving, and peer review of papers. Students will also be assigned joint research projects so that they will engage in collaborative learning experiences outside the classroom. Students will be expected to interact with media resources, such as web sites, video, DVDs, etc.

In line with the postulates of Writing Across the Curriculum, writing will be integrated in all class assignments.




Evaluation is conceived mainly as formative and feedback will be provided all throughout the course.


The evaluation of the studentsí achievement of the objectives of the course will be based on four main components: two exams, an oral presentation, and class participation/portfolio. The first exam accounts for 30% of the final grade while the second one accounts for 20%. The oral presentation accounts for 30% of the final grade and class participation/portfolio accounts for 20%.


Successful attainment of objectives depends mainly on class attendance and active class participation.




The oral presentation of a topic must be selected by the students from a list of options provided by the teacher. Students will conduct the presentations in teams made up 3 or 4 students each.


Students are expected to research about the topic and to read from several sources for the presentation. The oral presentation may consist of a lecture, a discussion led by the students, a debate among the members of the group or between the team and the rest of the class, a panel discussion, or any other form. The students are free to structure the presentation as they deem fit and to make use of any available resources, such as power point, VCR, transparencies, slides, flip chart, printed materials, etc. However, students will be encouraged to choose a focus and an angle through which they can deal with the selected topic, i.e., they will be expected to select an aspect of the problem, preferably a debatable, unresolved or topical one, and analyze it through their own -rather than other's- perspective. An essential component of the presentation is the preparation of an activity for the rest of the students. Additionally, students will have to select an article Ėpreferably one available electronically- a web site or another source of information for the rest of the students to read about the topic. The article should treat the topic comprehensively.


The oral presentation will last a maximum of 60 minutes, but the actual preparation of the presentation, including meetings with the professor, is conceived as a long process involving many hours throughout the term. During the preparation of the presentation, students are welcome to meet with the professor for consultation, suggestions and feedback on the evolution of the presentation. Students will have to present an outline of the presentation to the professor. The outline will be discussed and the professor will provide feedback and further guidelines. Students are expected to present a revised version of the presentation. During the presentation, the professorís role will be limited to listening passively and to providing feedback after it is over. The rest of the class must actively participate in the presentation as an active audience.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: a positive response must be given to the following questions in order to approve the research paper. The criteria are formulated in the form of questions which the teacher will ask with respect to each presentation. All these criteria have the same value.


1.         Does the presentation deal with the assigned topic?

2.         Does the presentation show an understanding of topic dealt with?

3.         Does the presentation show a clear, coherent and comprehensive treatment of the selected topic?

4.         Does the presentation integrate knowledge acquired throughout the course?

5.         Is there a critical personal assessment of the topic presented? In other words, the presentation is not a mere repetition of the main ideas exposed in the texts assigned as compulsory bibliography.

6.         Does the presentation include an activity for the audience?

7.         Has the activity engaged the active participation of the audience or have the students engaged the audience throughout the presentation?

8.         Have the students selected an article, a web site or another source of information that comprehensively deals with the topic of the presentation for the other students?




The exams will be in the form of essays where students will have to apply the knowledge gained in the course rather than to recite the material. Students will discuss and propose questions for the exams based on the topics dealt with in the course. If the questions have a general consensus they will be part of a test bank. The exams will not contain any question that has not been included in the test bank.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: The evaluation criteria will be given to the students once the test bank has been completed.





Students are expected to actively participate in every class with a positive attitude and to treat their classmates and instructor with respect. Their participation must make a positive impact on the class activities. Students are expected to be prepared for every class. Class attendance is a prerequisite to obtain the corresponding percentage of the grade under the class participation category. Students are expected to create an essay portfolio to record all class assignments. Each portfolio will include, at least, the following materials: (i) a title page and a table of contents; (ii) all the class activities, including one minute papers, small group activities and proposals for the test banks made in class.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: a positive response must be given to the following questions in to obtain the maximum grade within this evaluation component. The criteria are formulated in the form of questions which the teacher will ask with respect to each studentís participation and portfolio. All these criteria have the same value.


  1. Does the student actively participate in every class?
  2. Does the student show a positive attitude toward his or her classmates, the instructor and the activities?
  3. Is the student prepared for every class? 
  4. Does the student volunteer to lead activities, debates or debriefs?
  5. Is the portfolio complete? Does it contain all activities made in class and all required components?
  6. Does the portfolio evidence the studentís active engagement with the activities? Are the responses to the activities creative, original and intellectually challenging?


Grading system


A+: 95-100†††† B+: 80-84†††††† C+: 65-69†††† D: 50-54

A:†† 90-94†††††† B:75-79†††††††††††††† C:60-64††††† F: 0-49††††

A-:85-89†††††† B-: 70-74††††††† C-:55-59



1.         Concept of culture and types of cultural analysis

a.          Traditions in the study of culture: Weberianism, Durkheimianism, Marxism

b.         Durkheimís conceptions of culture: the role of rituals and symbols

c.          Weber's theory of cultural rationalization

d.         Modern cultural theory and the rule of law

e.          Functions of law: repressive, facilitative and ideological dimensions

f.           Power and law

2.         Power and law

a.          Domination and violence

b.         Weberís notion of law

c.          Forms of law and legal thought

d.         Weberís domination and law

e.          Types of legitimate domination

f.           Domination at the international level

g.          Influence of hegemonic cultures in the construction of international law

3.         Anglo American culture and rights

a.          Communal relations

b.         Absence of rights at the onset of the Anglo Saxon tradition

c.          Contemporary Anglo American culture and the emergence of rights

d.         The influence in Canada

4.         Continental European culture and rights

a.          The centrality of the person

b.         The creation of rights

c.          Subjective vs. objective rights

d.         The Enlightenment and rationality

e.          The influence of positivism

f.           The influence in Canada

5.         Aboriginal culture and rights

a.          Oral tradition. The web of believes

b.         Sentencing circle

c.          Absence of rights

d.         Durkheim

e.          Contemporary aboriginal culture and rights

f.           First Nations in Canada

6.         Globalization and Multiculturalism

a.          Different areas of globalization and their relation to culture

b.         Relation between globalization and cultural fragmentation

7.         Rights in post Communist Central Europe

a.          Contemporary human rights in Central Europe: nationalism, the discrimination against Roma, gender discrimination

b.         Post-communist application of western legal rights

8.         Contemporary Canadian Cultures: Dominant and Adversarial Cultures

a.          The distinctive Quebec culture

b.         The right of minorities

9.         Language Rights in Canada

a.          Comparison with language rights in the United States

b.         Language rights in other cultures

10.   Power and the media

a.          The influence of media in the construction of rights

b.         Identity issues

c.          Globalization of information

d.         Paper wave crimes

e.          The media role and the justice system

11.   Human Rights: An International Perspective

a.          Origins of human rights

b.         Generation of human rights

c.          Human Rights discourse in contemporary society

d.         Cultural relativism vs. universality

12.   Rights in other cultures

a.          Islamic society

b.         Talmudic society

13.   Gender and Law

14.   Culture and Postmodernism

a.          Differences between structural and post-structural approaches

15.   School violence

a.          The problems of bullying, discrimination and gun control

b.         The Columbine experience

c.          Measures for the prevention of violence in schools

16.   Immigration in Canada

a.          Migration, Urbanization, and the Making of Hybrid Cultures

b.         Influence of immigration on Canadian society and rights system

c.          The Canadian immigration system

17.   Internet and the Information Technology Society

a.          Internet influence on the rights system

b.         Emergence of new problems

c.          The issue of enforcement

d.         Freedom of speech




Julian Hermida and students, Compilation of texts and sources on Culture, Power and Rights. The textbook for the course will be the result of a collective enterprise between the professor and the students, which will be completed over the course. As part of the presentations, students will have to select an article, a chapter of a book, a web site or another source of information for the rest of the students to read about presented topic. The article should treat the topic comprehensively. The article will be photocopied (with due regard to the respective copyrights) and included in each studentís textbook.




A web site for the course is available at http://www.julianhermida.com Students will be able to consult the course outline, test banks, class notes, and other useful information.

All important announcements, such as exam dates, presentation dates, reading assignments, and deadlines for the portfolio, are given in class and will not appear on the web site.




None of the activities imply interviewing or interacting with human beings outside the classroom. However, if students want to interview or interact with people for any of these activities please contact the teacher well in advance to comply with ethics requirements.




In these large classes, it is sometimes difficult to get to know each and every one of my students. So, I would like to meet personally with as many of you as possible during the term. Please come see me during my office hours. I am available not only for class help but also for other academic-related issues, such as writing letters of reference or helping with prospective graduate studies. I want to be available to answer questions for all students. So in addition to regular office hours and seeing me by appointment, I will every so often end class early, and invite students who have questions to meet with me right then and there. Also note that if access to the third floor is barred after 5 PM, please call me from downstairs and I will go down and let you in.



Students with disabilities who would like to discuss classroom and/or exam accommodations should contact me as soon as possible.