human rights beyond the books
The worst human rights crisis in the modern history of the western hemisphere unfolded in Guatemala in recent decades. An estimated 200,000 Guatemalans, the majority of them Mayan peasants, were killed in the country’s civil war, leading a United Nations-sponsored Truth Commission to conclude that the country had witnessed a genocide. The armed conflict ended in 1996, but in the postwar era human rights remain just as important: while survivors struggle for justice in the country’s beleaguered courts system and before international institutions, a fragile civil society still reeling from the ravages of war is now grappling with new human rights challenges posed by globalization, neoliberal development, and new foreign policy dictates.

This seminar immerses students in the realities of human rights as they are experienced “on the ground” in Guatemala, exploring the issues scholars, aid workers, policymakers and human rights advocates face of addressing past atrocities while adapting to respond to new challenges. It will focus on themes that are broadly applicable to other countries and contexts, including Cold War armed conflicts, maquiladora (“sweatshop”) labor, free trade agreements, controversies about development, and fair trade. The course explores connections to the United States, and Seattle in particular, exploring our relationship to the global dynamics that manifest themselves in Guatemala and beyond, rather than defining Guatemala's plight as an object of foreign scrutiny. 
It is designed for students with interest in, and prior familiarity with, human rights; no language skills or prior experience in Latin America are required. Competitive applicants will be able to demonstrate a commitment to social justice (through coursework, volunteer activities, internships, experience) and explain why this class is well-suited to their studies, interests, and/or future plans.

For the first three weeks, the seminar is based in Antigua Guatemala, the Spanish colonial capital of the region and today a picturesque town approximately 40 minutes by car from downtown Guatemala City. In Antigua, regular classroom instruction is offered by both Prof. Godoy and Guatemalan experts. In addition, the course features side trips to human rights-relevant sites outside Antigua – including visits to the capital city, one to a maquiladora near the capital, and another to the site of a major massacre, where we will speak with survivors and those working on their behalf. These field trips allow students to have a direct experience of human rights work, and to interact both formally and informally with the leading human rights experts and activists in the country. The course concludes with a weeklong excursion to San Marcos, Guatemala, an impoverished province on the border with Mexico, where among other things, students will talk with workers on a coffee plantation, visit a fair trade coffee cooperative, examine the controversies surrounding the operations of an open-pit gold mine, and experience firsthand the realities of human rights work in rural Guatemala.