Human Rights Photographs Formatted title of Duke Human Rights Center Formatted quote about Human Rights

Writings on Human Rights


Talking Rights Blog
Article Launched: 02/18/2009

Do Rights Belong in the Classroom?February 18, 2009

By Robin Kirk

The history of what is studied in universities is long and abundant in controversy. In his old age, Plato once complained that his star student, Aristotle, was "kick[ing] me, as foals do their mothers when they are born" by refuting his teachings.

In more recent times, we've seen battles erupt over area, gender and ethnic studies. Some lament a perceived eclipse in traditional disciplines like history and philosophy. Others argue for an expanded and shifting menu that includes new subcategories that reflect the emerging regions or issues of the moment.

One newcomer that hasn't generated much talk is human rights. I teach a course (full disclosure here) at Duke University that begins with Homer's account of how Achilles desecrated Hector's body during the Trojan War and the nearly 1,200-page letter indigenous Peruvian writer Guamán Poma de Ayala wrote to Spain's King Phillip III. The letter contains 398 line drawings, many depicting the killings and acts of torture by conquistadores that Poma de Ayala asked the king to halt.

You can read the entire article in the Campus News section of Duke Today or in Kirk's Blog "Talking Rights".

Kirk is a visiting lecturer at Duke University and coordinator of the Duke Human Rights Center. She blogs at

Duke Human Rights Center -
235 John Hope Franklin Center, Franklin Humanities Institute
2204 Erwin Rd., Box 90403, Duke University
Durham, NC 27708-0403
Voice: 1-919-668-6511 Fax: 1-919-668-1919

This site designed and maintained by
Good Turn Web Design LLC