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Study information

Introduction to Postcolonialism

Module titleIntroduction to Postcolonialism
Module codePOC2103
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Shubranshu Mishra (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this course you will examine postcolonialism as a field of study that is intrinsic to understanding world politics and International Relations, by focussing on the ways in which the contemporary global order is constituted by the experience and practice of colonialism. The course also revisits some of the lingering impasses encountered in classic postcolonial debates by placing them in conversation with futurity studies in order to ponder alternative possibility/ies and modes of knowledge production. As such, questions related to cultural production, the environment, and aesthetics are integral to it.

The module will introduce you to the concepts of Postcolonialism and decoloniality by focusing on the key debates and concepts theorised by thinkers such as Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Stuart Hall, WEB DuBois, Ashis Nandy,Gayatri Spivak, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Walter Mignolo, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and the Subaltern Studies collective among others. By shedding light on the multiple meanings and conceptual varieties of postcolonial and decolonial perspectives, you will examine the colonial subjectivity and power relations through categories of race, class, caste, sexuality, indigeneity,and gender. You will also explore contemporary issues of security and migration, development and resistance through empirical examples to understand colonial continuities in the present. You will also rigorously address the lingering presence of colonialism in the spaces we inhabit and our everyday lives, be it statues that have spurred protest movements like Rhodes Must Fall, or seemingly neutral sites of knowledge like museums.

By placing postcolonial perspectives at the heart of its research agenda – contrary to their widespread treatment as a subsidiary critique of what is regarded as ‘mainstream’ academia - this course offers an important means for you to understand and participate in larger debates of decolonising knowledge.

When possible and if relevant, the module proposes a visit to ‘sites of postcolonial encounters’ to enable you to critically analyse the ‘everyday’ structures of colonial power and resistance. This visit could be virtual or real.

Although no prior knowledge is required, it is expected that students taking this course are interested in historical and contemporary security and cultural debates from a theoretical and empirical point of view. A background in social science will be helpful for following the key debates. The module is especially suitable for students studying International Relations, Politics and History.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to develop your critical thinking about postcolonialism; deploy an interpretive and decolonial research method to understand the world; and, to enable you to understand the nature of power relations in the modern global order. By the end of the course, you should be able to interrogate and examine the categories of race, gender and class through a postcolonial and decolonial lens. The module will also prepare you for academic and other careers in the field of development, international politics, critical theory and security studies.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. discuss, analyse and critically evaluate competing theoretical perspectives in the study of postcolonialism;
  • 2. demonstrate a familiarity with relevant empirical issues and examples.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. grasp and apply a variety of theories found in Politics and International Studies in order to assess and/or critique each theory and its application to specific practices;
  • 4. locate these theories and the debates/questions which surround them in the larger context of the study of Politics, for example contending conceptualisations of power, identity, colonialism, and rival framings of world politics.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. engage with, and analyse challenging literature and articulating complex;
  • 6. design and deliver presentations to peers, communicate effectively in speech and writing.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • ‘White Man’s Burden’: Introduction to Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial approaches I
  • ‘The Intimate Enemy: Introduction to Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial approaches II
  • Understanding Decoloniality: Introduction to Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial approaches III
  • Sites of Postcolonial Encounter: Museums, Statues, Universities
  • The Colonial Subjectivity: Race, Class, Caste, Gender I
  • Borders and Mobility: Race, Class, Caste, Gender II
  • The Postcolonial Global Order: Development and International Relations

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2010 x 2-hour seminars
Guided Independent Study130Private study – students are expected to read suggested texts and make notes prior to seminar sessions. They are also expected to read widely to complete their coursework assignments. More specifically, students are expected to devote at least: 66 (6 hours per topic/week) hours to directed reading; 6 hours to completing the formative research outline; 42 hours (3 hours/day over two weeks) for completing the essay; 10 hours (2 hours/day over 5 days) for completing literature critique pieces. The 4 remaining hours serve as a margin to be adjusted depending on the student in question.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reading Presentation10 minutes1-6Oral/Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Review Piece30800 words1-6Written
Summative Group Project702200 words or equivalent (100 words correspond to 1 minute of audio or video)1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Review PieceReview Piece (800 words) 1-6August/September reassessment period
Summative Project2200 words or equivalent 1-6August/September reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

Review Piece (35%) August/September reassessment period (Students apply a postcolonial lens whilst reviewing a cultural object (examples include a song, a music video, a theatre or televised performance, a painting, a movie, a novel, a restaurant chain).

Summative Project 2200 words or equivalent (65%%) August/September reassessment period ( Students produce their final project following feedback provided on their formative project proposal

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Dabashi, Hamid. The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism. Zed Books Limited

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. The souls of black folk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. 2004

Davis, Angela Y. Women, race, & class. London: Vintage, 2011.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Can the subaltern speak?" (1988).

Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. (OUP India, 1989)

Mignolo, Walter. Local Histories / Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking. Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2012.

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man's Burden” (1899). Poem.

Kothari, U. (2005). “Authority and Expertise: The Professionalization of International Development and the Ordering of Dissent”, Antipode, 37 (3).

Escobar, A. (1999). “The Invention of Development”, Current History, 98 (631): 382-386.

Escobar, A. (1997). “The Making and Unmaking of the Third World”. In: M. Rahnema, V. Bawtree, eds., The Post-Development Reader, London: Zed Books, pp. 85-93

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages
  • Kanopy;
  • podcasts;
  • blogs and vlogs;
  • cultural productions (songs; music videos; films; performances);
  • policy briefs;
  • annual reports from selected international organizations

Key words search

Postcolonialism, power, race, gender, imperialism, decolonial, affect, aesthetics.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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