Självklart och oklart: Mänskliga rättigheter som kunskapsinnehåll i gymnasieskolan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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In 2011, human rights were introduced in the Swedish national curriculum and in subject syllabi. But what do teachers and students talk about when they talk about human rights? By examining rights language in national curricula, textbooks and teachers’ and students’ speech, the study shows how human rights are created as content through a meaning-making cultural translation process - vernacularisation.
The research design was empirically driven and the study’s theoretical concepts emanate from the analysis. By developing and using the concept of “associative rights language” and the concept pair interpersonal and institutional human rights perspective, the thesis takes on the complexity in analysing human rights as subject matter. The analytical tool associative rights language is constructed to locate human rights language within speech and text that does not explicitly mention the term human rights. The concept pair of interpersonal and institutional human rights perspective captures a relation which lies at the core of human rights – the relation between the rights-holder and the duty-bearer. The understanding of the individual person as a moral and, in some senses, legal duty-bearer forms the interpersonal perspective, while the emphasis on institutions and the state as duty-bearer of human rights constitutes the institutional perspective. The concept pair should not be understood as binary, but as showing dimensions in perceptions of the duty-bearer/rights-holder relation.
The Swedish upper secondary school as an institutional rights culture has a distinctive rights language. The rights language in schools is shaped by the educational policy context and by the actors who participate in the dissemination of knowledge, such as textbooks, teachers and students, and external organisations and agencies working for human rights.
Human rights as content is flexible and elusive; it covers complex meanings and contexts. The use of rights language is situational and the different dimensions of the associative rights language are thus more or less dominant depending on the topic. The human rights language consolidates and expands the already existing conceptions of interpersonal responsibility that exist in the fundamental values, in the school’s democratic mission, and in the juridified understanding of relations in school and society at large.
This study shows that the rights language can encompass different ways of conceptualizing human rights as content. If the purpose of teaching about human rights is to create systematic knowledge about human rights as a contested historical, moral, legal and political equality project, it is necessary that the implicit content of human rights is complemented with explicit rights terminology.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Human Rights Studies
  • Halldenius, Lena, Supervisor
  • Tullberg, Andreas, Assistant supervisor
Award date2022 Oct 7
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-89415-21-8
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-89415-22-5
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun 22

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2022-10-07
Time: 13:15
Place: LUX C126
External reviewer
Name: Ann Quennerstedt
Title: professor
Affiliation: Örebro universitet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Humanities not elsewhere specified

Free keywords

  • human rights
  • human rights education
  • rights language
  • Swedish upper secondary school
  • Sweden
  • education


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