Human Rights, Gender and Conflict Studies: Social Justice Perspectives (SJP)

When power starts to shift dramatically, advancing social justice can prove a complex and contradictory process. Whether in Latin America, Africa, Asia or elsewhere, justice, the rule of law, peace and equal rights and opportunities may be promised, whilst simultaneously injustices, violence and exclusions continue to shape most people’s daily lives. In different domains, the fundamental rights to development, social and political expression and participation, to economic justice and to peace and dignity may be threatened by structural exclusions along lines of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class or age.

Addressing each of those instances of injustice requires informed strategy and action, critical engagement with a broad set of realities and ideas, and working across physical, social and symbolic borders and boundaries.

The SJP Major is inspired by a need of working strategically to apply recent thinking to narrowing gaps between aspirations and realities. It consists of three interwoven strands:  Human Rights, Women and Gender Studies, and Conflict and Peace Studies. Each strand offers critical, multi-disciplinary, theoretically sophisticated and practically informed knowledge of the fields involved. Individual courses examine each of these fields in depth, and explore how states, civic actors and global institutions negotiate economic, social, epistemic and/or political justice, paying attention to material realities and their discursive representation, and how these constitute each other.

About Social Justice Perspectives

The Social Justice Perspectives (SJP) Major offers critical reflections on issues relating to gender, human rights, conflict and social mobilization, which are all key to social justice. The Major goes beyond the normative, often oppositional conceptualizations of social justice which frequently take a simplified focus on either economic inequalities, or identities, or symbolic representations. Instead, the Major examines the processes through which diverse inequalities, exclusions and asymmetries persist and are reproduced in societies. We do this by criticizing the dichotomous representation of the global and local, personal and political, individual and structural. We also examine universalist and cultural-relativist perspectives on social justice, as well as perspectives that depart entirely from such binary understandings.

The Social Justice Major addresses economic, political, legal, social, cultural and historical underpinnings of social justice. We evaluate a diversity of claims to hold states accountable, made by a range of actors operating both within, outside and against a variety of institutional settings, including at the global level.

Rooted in social movement traditions, the Social Justice Major appreciates contemporary innovative actions and pioneering analytical tools of actors and analysts of social change. It banks on the promises held e.g. in gender and human rights frameworks, but also reviews these critically. It is particularly sensitive to the contexts in which such frameworks are instrumentalized to justify other interests.

The Major offers opportunities to analyze the ‘operation’ of gender and various manifestations of masculinities and femininities in the contemporary global world. Importantly, gender is always seen in intersection with sexualities, age, disabilities, race and class, situated in a particular context. Students can also familiarize themselves with the role of law for human rights, and more generally with issues relating to human rights, law and society, and with processes and tools to realize human rights in diverse contexts.

The Social Justice Major also provides students with opportunities to engage with a range of understandings of contemporary violent conflicts and actions for achieving peace. Inspired by critical social science, the Major brings together a team of lecturers who approach social justice from a variety of often very different perspectives.

The SJP major approach

Our approaches to conflict and peace, gender, social movements and human rights sometimes converge and sometimes diverge. Lecturers draw on expertise in anthropology, sociology, international and national law, economics, cultural and religious studies and political science, and use feminist, socio-legal, ethnographic and postcolonial methodologies.

This richness of perspectives and skills within the teaching team will provide students of the Social Justice Major with a wide array of ideas, views, experiences and case-studies from different parts of the world.

Target group

The Major offers a broad range of analytical and practical skills to young and mid-career professionals and aspiring academics interested and engaged in human rights, women and gender and in peace work, whether in government, research or civil society organizations.


Within the MA programme students have an option to specialize further. Take a look at the current specializations on offer.

Have a look at the SJP webinar session and video summary of the SJP major


ISS - SJP Webinar Session 2024

The Social Justice Perspectives (SJP) Major offers critical reflections on issues relating to gender, human rights, conflict and social mobilization, which are all key to social justice.

Human Rights, Gender and Conflict Studies: Social Justice Perspectives

Check out what our students have to say about the SJP major!

My focus is on conflict and social justice perspective. I am personally interested to learn more about poverty, inequality, and conflict resolution
I’m looking to compare experiences from other countries, discover how they have tackled certain challenges and build strategic alliance and partnership to address challenges back home

Feminist Dialogues

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