SHE Level 5
SCQF Credit Points 15.00
ECTS Credit Points 7.50
Module Code MML326668
Module Leader Angela O'Hagan
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Sociology
  • B (January start)

Summary of Content

The realisation of human rights in practice globally continues to be contested and inconsistent. Basic access to housing, social security, reproductive health, gender equality, social care, non-discrimination, civil, political and economic rights is partial and uneven. In response to persistent and enduring injustices, social movements form around specific issues - gender equality, climate change and environmental justice, racism, development, access to water, and many other issues. These social movements comprise a range of actors - individuals, political parties, trade unions, think tanks and NGOs and can - and do - encounter opposition and resistance from the institutions and policy processes they are seeking to change. Social movements can endure for decades, with membership and conceptual underpinning changing over time, such as global feminism and the challenges therein; or they can be more short-lived with a specific focus on a particular action such as deforestation, re-directing of water supplies, international trade or debt proposals. Underpinning such activism there are a range of theoretical concepts and contestations, and the movements and activism themselves can be explored through theories of political organising and public policy concepts around advocacy, communities, and coalitions. The international legislative and institutional frameworks of human rights instruments and conventions can provide a structure for advocacy and organising, and can also be a focus of social mobilisation and criticism. This module will explore foundational concepts in social movements and some of the global manifestations of these from a critical perspective, and from the perspectives and experiences of a range of critical actors.


Structured into 3 blocks with a final session reflecting on learning and knowledge development, this module combines theoretical and empirical material in relation to the formation, conceptual underpinning and political organisation of social movements for the realisation of human rights including global feminism, climate activism, anti-racism, and disability rights. Each block comprises conceptual and theoretical material, examples of social movement activism and critical engagement with political strategies and contexts. Perspective and experiences from external activists, advocates, politicians and analysts will be integrated into the topic blocks either through use of on-line materials, and in-person seminars and on-line webinars and discussions. Block 1 - Defining Social Movements Session #1: Introducing concepts of social movements. Session #2: Advocacy or ideology? Session #3: Citizenship and activism. Block 2 - Global Activism Session #4: Environmental Justice. Session #5: Feminisms and Gender Justice. Session #6: Anti-Racism and Racial Justice. Session #7: Disabled rights and justice Block 3 - Institutional Structures Session #8: International Human Rights instruments and institutions. Session #9: International Conventions: CEDAW, ICERC, ICRDP, ICRC, etc. Session #10: Right to Development; Block 4 - Reflections learning Session #11: Social Movements and Activism for Change in practice

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:1. Compare and critically assess different theories and models of social movements and how these relate to the realisation of human rights.2. Interpret theories and ideologies which underpin social movements related to the realisation of human rights and poverty.3. Compare different forms of social movements and advocacy from a global perspective.4. Assess policy contexts and evaluate challenges for social movements in relation to the realisation of human rights. 5. Evaluate, analyse and synthesize information and insights from diverse perspectives, disciplines and sources.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Post graduate students have a body of formal knowledge and lived experience to draw upon in developing their theoretical knowledge and reflecting on the social, political, organisational, and economic contexts in which they seek to apply that knowledge. Consistent with the character of the MSc in Human Rights, this module aims to establish a critically engaged community of learning. The module is designed as blended learning, combining taught content either face to face or on-line, flipped classroom of student-led reading and critical review, insights from practice with contributions from external guests (non-governmental organisations (NGOs), formal policy or governmental organisations, community groups and activists), and self-directed study and research to apply conceptual and theoretical knowledge to critical questions around the challenges activism for change. Students will be engaged in a range of exercises involving learning by discussion, investigation, and collaboration. As a critically engaged learning community, the co-production of knowledge is central to the learning approach in this module, encouraging students to engage in discussion of alternative viewpoints to their own, and build an appreciation for the lived experience of others, as well as a situated analysis of their own circumstances. This is reflected in the coursework where students will require to engage with an external organisation and campaign, set clear learning objectives, and prepare a report of their experience of this action-research project.

Indicative Reading

Reading List: Social Movements and Activism for Change -360b7 Barnes C. 2007. Disability activism and the struggle for change: disability, policy and politics in the UK. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice ; 2(3), pp.203-221. b7 Clayton, D.M., 2018. Black lives matter and the civil rights movement: A comparative analysis of two social movements in the United States. Journal of Black Studies , 49 (5), pp.448-480. b7 Della Porta, D. and Diani, M., 2020. Social movements: An introduction . John Wiley & Sons. b7 Ferree, M.M. and Tripp, A.M. eds., 2006. Global feminism: Transnational women's activism, organizing, and human rights . NYU Press. b7 Ferree, M.M., Ganz, M., Flacks, R., Gould, D.B., Koopmans, R., Merrill, D.A., Meyer, D.S., Polletta, F., Tarrow, S. and Tilly, C., 2004. Rethinking social movements: Structure, meaning, and emotion . Rowman & Littlefield. b7 Hesse-Biber, S. N. (2012). Handbook of feminist research: Theory and praxis . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications b7 Hobson, Janell., ed. 2016. Are All the Women Still White? : Rethinking Race, Expanding Feminisms . SUNY Press b7 McAdam, D., McCarthy, J.D. and Zald, M.N. eds., 1996. Comparative perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and cultural framings (p. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. b7 McAdam, D., 2003. Beyond structural analysis: Toward a more dynamic understanding of social movements. Social movements and networks: Relational approaches to collective action , pp.281-298. b7 Mohanty, C.T., 2003. Feminism without borders: Decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity . Duke University Press. b7 Sabatello, M. and Schulz, M., 2014. A short history of the international disability rights movement. Human rights and disability advocacy , pp.13-24. b7 Salem, S., 2018. Intersectionality and its discontents: Intersectionality as traveling theory. European Journal of Women's Studies , 25 (4), pp.403-418. b7 Shakespeare, T., 2006. The social model of disability. The disability studies reader , 2 , pp.197-204.

Transferrable Skills

-360 1. Information gathering and processing: defining issues, locating sources, managing resources and assessing relevant evidence 2. Critical appraisal: analysing theories and research 3. Independent thinking: analysing and evaluating policy 4. Project management: organising tasks, self-reflection and time management 5. Communication: delivering effective presentations and reports, and contributing to debates.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Lectures (FT) 18.00
Placement 18.00
Seminars (FT) 18.00
Independent Learning (FT) 72.00
Assessment (FT) 24.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 100.00 50% Action Research Case Study (4,000 words)