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Cultural Studies Program

Courses :: CULS C701 Topic: Seminar in “Post-colonial Studies”

By the twentieth century, over eighty per cent of the earth’s land surface had been colonized. For the British, imperial expansion was accompanied and consolidated by the spread of the English language and the inculcation of British cultural values through education. Colonial educational policies, however, became both politically and culturally double-edged. At the political level, they would result in the cultivation of a native clerical class to serve the Empire, and, simultaneously, the dissemination of bourgeois democratic ideals among the native, educated elite. Inspired by these ideals, this elite would emerge as the leadership of anti-colonial movements. At the cultural level, colonialism would have a profound impact on English literature, introducing semantic systems and epistemologies that have radically reshaped the novel.

This course will investigate the emergence and use of post-colonial theory as a primary intellectual framework through which to analyze colonial relationships and their political and cultural legacies. We will begin by reading foundational texts in the field including Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, Aime Cesaire’s A Discourse on Colonialism, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and A Dying Colonialism, and Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism. We will be concerned with how these texts disclose the ideological and discursive operations of Empire and anti-colonial nationalism. In particular, we will ask what kind of relationship these works posit between institutions and the intellectual.

Throughout the course, we will consider some of the seminal issues which define the history of post-colonial studies, such as the role of women in national liberation struggles and the post-colonial state, the ways that prison serves as an alternative site of learning, the utility of dependency theory for understanding global disparities of wealth, the status of the subaltern and the challenges of archiving subaltern consciousness, and the relationship between formal colonialism and newer forms of imperialism.

The final section of the course will focus on how to translate the concepts of post-colonial theory to an engagement with specific literary works. In this unit, we will also consider how literature offers an alternative form of knowledge to theory. Our literary readings will represent a small sample of post-colonial fiction, but will be drawn from a number of different contexts (Central America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia).
Students should expect to write weekly electronic journals for the first half of the semester, take an active role in classroom discussion, and write a twenty-page seminar paper. In addition, students will be required to attend one or two lectures by visiting speakers outside of class.

Readings:
Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose (Lebanon)
Eqbal Ahmed, Confronting Empire.
Ama Ata Aidoo, Our Sister Killjoy (Ghana)
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of
            Nationalism.
Manlio Argueta, One Day of Life (El Salvador)
Aime Cesaire, A Discourse on Colonialism
Latifa,  My Forbidden Face (Afghanistan)
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Richard Philcox’s translation) and A Dying
             Colonialism
Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, Ella Shohat editors, Dangerous Liaisons, Gender,
            Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives.
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (India)
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism.
Gillian Whitlock, Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit
Robert Young, Post-Colonialism: A Historical Introduction

Films:
Edward Said on Orientalism
Maria’s Story
Beneath the Veil
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask