HL90 EG: Human Rights and Ethnic Studies

Looking for classes? We asked lecturers to tell us more about their fall HL90s. Mark Sanchez is teaching “Human Rights and Ethnic Studies” and talked to us about the importance of Ethnic Studies to understanding rights and justice, as well as the hardest class he took in college (hint: it’s not history or literature!).

What inspired you to come up with this class?

I am inspired to teach this course because of the disastrous human rights situation in the Philippines. As a student of Philippine studies and Ethnic studies, I have spent a lot of time in recent years thinking about the possibilities and limitations of human rights discourses. I want this class to be a space where we think together about rights and what can be done to create a more just world.

Are there any sources you’re especially excited about introducing students to?

I am particularly excited to teach A. Naomi Paik’s book Rightlessness. This has been a work that I’ve been thinking about and grappling with for the last few years. It has made me think a lot about rights and rightlessness and whether or not freedoms are necessarily accompanied by unfreedom. I cannot wait to discuss it with a group of students because I have often found that seminar discussions are really great spaces to try to make sense of things. 

I am also incredibly excited to potentially teach Alyx Ayn G. Arumpac’s recent documentary, Aswang (2019), which covers the effects of Duterte’s drug war on everyday people in the Philippines. 

Do you have any creative assignments planned?

In one of my assignments (inspired by my colleague, Beatrice Wayne) I would like to invite students to reflect on manifestos, political statements, platforms such as the Combahee River Collective Statement, I Wor Kuen’s 12 Point Program, and the Black Panther Party’s 10 Point Program and work towards creating a statement/platform of their own. This assignment may be done individually or collaboratively, but I will also invite students to compose a reflection on the process and what connections/disconnects they experienced.

What do you want students to take away from the class?

I want this to be a space where students can develop an understanding of the history of human rights in the United States from the 1970s to today. My other hope (and it’s admittedly a bit of an idealistic one) is that we will work together to imagine ways to address the grave human rights injustices in our world today without replicating the power structures that undergird such violations. 

This sounds like a class we’d be excited to take! But when you were an undergraduate, what would you say the most challenging class you took was?

Definitely Intermediate Accounting 2. Debits/credits and financial statement analysis are a tricky tricky thing.

If you’re looking for a great alternative to intermediate accounting, you can check out the syllabus for “Human Rights and Ethnic Studies” on Canvas, drop by open office hours during shopping period (Monday, August 17 from 3-5) or email Mark.

Published by Hist & Lit

Committee on Degrees in History & Literature at Harvard University

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