Seminar in Cultural Studies: Postcolonial Theory

ENG 775 (002) Seminar in Cultural Studies

Instructor: S. Shankar


TUES 6:00-8:30 PM [In Person]


Course Description

Postcolonial Theory (LSE/CSAP)


This course is an introduction to postcolonial theory as an influential academic formation of the last forty years. It sets out to review, critique and contextualize this methodology of literary and cultural study. Accordingly, the course will engage with some of the major figures who have contributed to the emergence of this mode of cultural critique and with its most persistent preoccupations and themes. Chief focus will be on literary studies, cultural studies and history, three disciplines that have been particularly important as sites for the elaboration of postcolonial theory. The expectation is that at the end of the semester students will have a strong general sense of the debates within the interdisciplinary field of postcolonial theory and be ready to pursue more particular projects relating to the field should they so wish.


There is no textbook for this class. Readings will be provided as PDFs on the class website. We will read a variety of texts (excerpted or in entirety). Examples: Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth; Edward Said’s Orientalism; the work of Gayatri Spivak, Achille Mbembe, and Gloria Anzaldua; more recent essays by Nadine Naber and Rob Nixon. We will also read literary texts at two or three points in the semester. See below for a tentative list of readings.


Some of our time will be focused on teasing out methodologies, or modes of cultural critique—noting how critics “doing” postcolonial theory do what they do. However, we will remain equally attentive to the urgent events, ideas and texts (in brief, objects of analysis) on which the methodologies operate. 



Required Texts


There is no textbook. Readings will be archived online on the course home page. The list below is tentative; not all these texts may be included. You will read 3-4 essays/excerpts per week.


  1. K. Gandhi, from Hind Swaraj


Frantz Fanon, from The Wretched of the Earth


Benedict Anderson, from Imagined Communities


Partha Chatterjee, from The Nation and Its Fragments


Edward Said, from Orientalism


Homi Bhabha, “Sly Civility”


Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”


Ania Loomba, from Colonialism/Postcolonialism


Ranajit Guha, from “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India”


Shetty & Bellamy, “Postcolonialism’s Archive Fever”


Linda Tuhiwai Smith, “Imperialism, History, Writing and Theory’ The Politics of

Language and Literary Studies”


Mahmood Mamdani, from Citizen and Subject


Henry Louis Gates, “Writing Race and the Difference It Makes”


Paul Gilroy, from The Black Atlantic


Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics”


Frank Wilderson, from Afropessimism


Chandra Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes” and “Under Western Eyes Revisited”


Gayatri Gopinath, from Impossible Desires


Sara Ahmed, from Strange Encounters


UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights


Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native”


Haunani-Kay Trask, from From a Native Daughter


Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands”


Tuck & Yang, “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor”


Marx & Engels, “The Communist Manifesto”


Fredric Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism”


Aijaz Ahmad, from In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures


Crystal Bartolovich, “Introduction: Marxism, Modernity and Postcolonial Studies”


Walter Rodney, from How Capitalism Underdeveloped Africa


Lisa Lowe, from The Intimacies of Four Continents


Jana Evan Braziel & Anita Mannur, “Diaspora”


Gloria Anzaldua, from Borderlands/La Frontera


Arjun Appadurai, from Modernity at Large


Hosam Aboul-Ela, “Peripheralization”


  1. Shankar, Nirmal Selvamony, Bishnupriya Ghosh, Charu Gupta, Francesca Orsini, forum on “The Vernacular”


  1. Shankar from Flesh and Fish Blood


John Tomlinson, from Cultural Imperialism


Subcommandante Marcos, “Tomorrow Begins Today”


Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”


Rob Nixon, from Slow Violence


Imre Szeman, from Petrocultures


Barbara Harlow, from Resistance Literature


Leela Gandhi, “Concerning Violence: The Limits and Circulations of Gandhian ‘Ahisma’ or Passive Resistance”


Nadine Naber. “‘Look, Mohammed the Terrorist Is Coming!’ Cultural Racism, Nation-Based Racism, and the Intersectionality of Oppressions after 9/11”


Poems by Dennis Brutus, Derek Walcott, Christopher Okigbo, Narayan Surve, Haunani-Kay Trask, Wayne Westlake


Short Stories by Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer, Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and R. K. Narayan



Student Learning Outcomes

Students will….


Demonstrate ability to apply advanced research methods


Demonstrate ability to map, historicize, and contextualize specialized areas


Apply a theoretical model in the study of literature and culture


Present research findings to varied audiences, in both oral and written formats


Develop responsible frameworks and practices for work in English studies from our cultural location in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.


Acquire and integrate other disciplinary perspectives.


Demonstrate written and oral ability to place scholarly work within broader critical conversations with peers, students, and established scholars/writers as well as in publication




Students will do the following assignments during the semester:


An oral presentation related to the readings for the class. Also to be turned in as a double-spaced five- to six-page paper for a grade. 20% of grade


Six-page research proposal with attached five-page (minimum) annotated bibliography. 25% of grade


Online discussions conducted in parallel to our class sessions. With Class Participation, 5% of grade.


Twenty-five-page term paper. 50% of grade