Skip to main content

Human Rights Studies Graduate Concentration

Graduate students enrolled at Purdue can apply to the Human Rights Studies (HRS) Interdisciplinary Graduate Program Administered as a Concentration. More information on the program is below.

The application for the Human Rights Studies graduate concentration can be downloaded here.

Our Mission

Concepts of human rights lie at the core of our modern self-conception, and more specifically since both the Second World War and the Cold War. Any student engaged with the literature, history, philosophy, art, culture or religion of this period will have their understanding improved and research deepened by understanding how these concepts have been practiced, the philosophical tensions at their foundations, and the historical circumstances of their development. The Human Rights Studies (HRS) Interdisciplinary Graduate Program Administered as a Concentration will allow graduate students to gain a wider understanding of the political and historical context in which the concept of human rights has developed and in which it operates. Faculty affiliated with the program will provide the required courses.

The advantages of such a graduate concentration include the following:

  1. Ph.D. students in HIST and PHIL routinely specialize in political studies with interdisciplinary components of their research, but there has not previously been a way to recognize such components on their transcript nor to organize the way in which they receive their interdisciplinary training. The HRS graduate concentration now provides both.
  2. The departments comprising the program can now attract additional qualified graduate students who wish tp pursue this concentration and further their studies and research in Human Rights Studies.
  3. Having such an interdisciplinary graduate concentration could enhance graduates' job market prospects.

Research and Training Focus

The field of human rights is intrinsically interdisciplinary. Graduate students in the Human Rights Studies graduate concentration will acquire specialized training in the political context and historical development of the normative political concepts employed in human rights theories. They will learn about interdisciplinary approaches to studying such concepts and develop a descriptive and explanatory understanding of the institutional structures, social movements, and historical variation of the content and purchase of those concepts. Students will thus attain fluency in the contemporary language of human rights, develop cross-cultural competence and cross-national and comparative perspectives, enhance their critical thinking and writing skills, and acquire the ability to translate across different disciplinary approaches to political theory and phenomena.


The history of human rights field asks where the history of human rights begins, and why. History courses in the HRS graduate concentration will consider questions such as: have human beings always had the “right to have rights” (Hannah Arendt)? 


Human rights is a long-running topic of research in philosophy, particularly in ethics, and social and political philosophy. There are also problems in the historical interpretation of human rights, where the origins, development, and strategies of human rights implementation, their meaning and usage, are contested. Philosophy courses in the HRS graduate concentration will consider questions from the foundations of rights (in either will or interest), to questions of the scope of basic rights (e.g., should they include subsistence rights?), to questions of the relation between human rights and law (both civil and international).

Political Science

Studying the politics of human rights allows us to understand how political ideas, movements, and practices uphold delay, or damage human efforts to achieve dignity and well-being in the world. Political Science courses will explore these topics across historical periods, and from both national and international perspectives.

Core Courses and Requirements

Courses for the graduate concentration in Human Rights Studies will integrate the history, theory, and application of human rights concepts. 12 credit hours are required for the Concentration in Human Rights Studies. At least 3 credit hours must be fulfilled outside the student’s major field by one of the following core courses:

  • HIST 59000: History of Human Rights
  • POL 63100: International Human Rights

The other 9 credit hours must be drawn from CLA courses that have substantial human rights content. These courses could include the core courses listed above, and also:

  • PHIL 50400: Human Rights Ethics
  • PHIL 54000: Studies in Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 55500: Critical Theory
  • PHIL 59000: Theories of Rights
Other courses in CLA departments may also qualify toward the HRS graduate concentration, as approved by the Director of the Human Rights Program. Variable content courses can be repeated for credit under appropriate circumstances.

Participating Faculty

Faculty members from the Departments of Philosophy and History, along with faculty affiliated with the Human Rights Studies program from other departments, will form the core faculty for the HRS graduate concentration.

For a list of Human Rights Program faculty, visit our People page.

Contacts and More Information

Purdue’s Human Rights Program is in active contact with other such programs at universities throughout the world and is a member of the Scholars-at-Risk Network.

Click here to download the Human Rights Studies (HRS) Application.

If you need more information on the HRS graduate concentration, please contact or