Colonialism and Postcolonialism

4 CEU credits

MA course Winter Semester 2015


Definitions of ‘colonialism’ and ‘postcolonialism’ vary. Colonialism is sometimes understood as a specific event or experience of the past. Colonialism is also understood as an ongoing exercise of economic, military or political power by stronger states over weaker ones (‘neo-colonialism’). Still others point to colonial epistemology or forms of knowledge, premised on the privileging of western forms of understanding, and indeed of living, and the appropriation or derogation of ‘local’ or ‘native’ forms. As a result, postcolonialism is sometimes understood in straightforward temporal terms (‘after colonialism’). Other times postcolonialism is understood as a quotidian condition of cultural, political and/or economic marginality. And yet more understandings see the marginal condition of ‘postcoloniality’ as an ‘in-between’ intellectual or cultural condition, existing at the interstices of European modernity, with which it has a complex, intertwined and symbiotic relationship. Postcolonialism is thus about questions of agency, subjectivity, power and justice, all couched within the resounding question of who gets to speak? And on whose behalf?

But these questions of postcolonialism are sometimes ahistorical, meaning that not enough attention is paid to how histories of colonialism frame 'postcolonialism'.  This course provides a detailed study of colonialism as a basis for understanding the claims and limits of postcolonial theory and postcolonial time.