Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 22 Hours. (1 x 2 hour seminars per week)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 - 3,500 word essay  40%
Semester Assessment 1 x 5,000 word essay  60%
Supplementary Exam Students may, subject to Faculty approval, have the opportunity to resit this module, normally during the supplementary examination period. For further clarification please contact the Teaching Programme Administrator in the Department of International Politics. 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

- discuss the notion of the postcolonial or postcoloniality
- analyse in detail power relations and discursive practices in particular postcolonial contexts
- discuss critically and in depth questions of power, colonialism and resistance in a postcolonial setting

Brief description

This module provides an advanced introduction to the fascinating and intriguing study of postcolonial politics . It explores both classics in the field and a range of cutting edge postcolonial scholarship in international politics, development studies, race and gender. We will examine current debates around the relationship between the theoretical work on which much postcolonial scholarship draws so-called post-structural writers such as Derrida, Foucault, Lacan and Gramsci — and possibilities for political activism. And we will examine in some depth a series of particular situated and specific practices that exemplify the questions we pose: looking at real people in real places.


Introduced as an area of study in Aberystwyth over ten years ago now—when postcolonialism was generally only studied in relation to comparative literature—postcolonial politics has become a wide-ranging and much debated field. It embraces critical development, explorations of continuing and often invisible neocolonial attitudes and practices, and possibilities for resistance, and it explores these topics through literature, film, art and music as well as the written word.

Postcolonial politics was seen initially as a move beyond both ‘international relations’, which tends to discuss relations between states or great powers, and ‘third world studies’, which isolates certain parts of the world and discusses them separately. The old labels suggest a view of the world as split into the industrialised, developed west and the underdeveloped or developing south. Postcolonial politics, in contrast, sees these two areas as mutually constitutive: they produce each other. It examines how they come to be produced as distinct in so many ways, how these differences are perpetuated, and how they may be contested.

Originally meant as a break away from traditional approaches, scholarship in postcolonialism and critical development has had a huge impact on the study of international politics, challenging the discipline to halt its disavowal of the historical experiences of colonialism, racism and conquest by which current international politics is framed, formulating critiques of its analyses and pointing out its blind spots. Postcolonialism in international politics is now a burgeoning field with its own large and ever-expanding community of scholars and a rapidly growing literature


1. Colony Meets Metropole: Examines one of the foundational writers of postcolonialism, Frantz Fanon, and contemporary readings of Fanon in relation to international politics. We pick up here particularly on his experiences as a Frenchman from Martinique who encounters racism on his arrival in Paris and his work as a psychiatrist in Algeria during the Algerian war. We return later to his writings on anticolonial violence and the Algerian War.

2. Anticolonialism and Nationalist Struggles: Examines the struggles against European imperialism and colonisation in the post war period, from the perspective of the colonised. It raises the question of the role of violence and the place of nationalism in independence struggles in the light of the way in which coloniser and colonised are mutually constituted through cultural and ideological processes that form an important part of what enables colonisation to take place and to be maintained. We begin with a classic account of the subject and power by Michel Foucault. We then look at the anti-colonialist writings of Césaire, Memmi and Fanon and examine discussions of the problems of nationalist struggles from Said, Fanon and Chatterjee.

3. Out of Algeria: Situated Knowledges: Examines the argument that certain strands of thinking can be said to have emerged from the Algerian war, not only the work of Fanon but also that of Derrida and post-structural writers in general. We begin by examining Foucault’s work on power/knowledge, and its importance for understanding the way in which ‘truth’ functions politically, and Walter Mignolo’s extension of this work and his notion of de-colonial knowledges.

4. Orientalism and Hybridity: Explores two concepts that were key in the development of postcolonial studies. First, we look at orientalism, which is associated with the classic work of Edward Said, work that is credited with inaugurating the field of postcolonial theory and draws on Michel Foucault. Second, we examine hybridity, a concept developed by Homi Bhabha and one that is much contested. Bhabha draws on Derrida and Lacan as well as Foucault and Fanon. We read one chapter from his Location of Culture in this seminar; the other chapters are very much worth exploring.

5. Out of India: Subaltern Studies: We examine the work of the subaltern studies group, and the recent work of Dipesh Chakrabarty, who argues for what he calls “provincializing Europe.” In a context framed by liberal western ideologies it is questionable whether the oppressed — the subaltern — has even the possibility of a voice, let alone of being heard. The term subaltern comes from Gramsci. Work using the notion of the subaltern (and indeed the writings of the Subaltern Studies Group) has been used in Latin America; its uses in studies of indigeneity are being explored at the moment.

6. Race and Diaspora: Postcolonial politics, in contrast to International Relations, has emphasized the politics of race and gender. In this seminar, we examine race in particular, using the work of Stuart Hall as exemplary, and we look also at questions of the ambiguity and impossibility of any identification, focusing on the question of diaspora. Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics and race, and volume one of History of Sexuality, is relevant here, and we begin with his Society must be Defended lectures.

7. Sex and Gender: In this seminar we examine two classic pieces: Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the subaltern speak?”, with its discussion of sati (widow burning) and suicide, and Chandra Mohanty’s “Under Western eyes,” a critique of western feminisms. We also read a feminist critique of Fanon, a piece by Ann Laura Stoler that explores gender alongside race, and a study of feminist solidarity in the context of contemporary conflicts.

8. Colonial Governmentality: Foucault’s work on disciplinary practices and governmentality has been pivotal in the development of a specifically political approach to postcoloniality. We examine his work, and look at two pieces that describe such practices in specific contexts: one in colonial Egypt and one in postcolonial aid practices in refugee camps.

9. Postcolonial Development: Critical postcolonial approaches to development were influenced by the work of Foucault and his notion of power, and by Said's Orientalism. These analyses hold that underdevelopment cannot be reduced to the workings of capitalist logic, but has its own logic and coherence and produces its own effects.

10. Postcolonial Ethics: We examine recent calls for a ‘postcolonial ethics’. We look at the influential work of Ashis Nandy, a major postcolonial thinker whose work is informed by psychoanalytic perspectives, and the recent work of Leela Ghandi, which draws on Derrida.

11. After Postcoloniality? In the final seminar we focus on the question of postcolonial politics as a field of problematization in the present, and we examine the debates on this in the work of David Scott and Neil Lazarus. Both Scott and Lazarus ask: What are the questions to which postcolonialism was framed as a response? Do these questions still hold?

Transferable skills

The module will require and develop transferable skills such as teamwork (through the use of student-led seminars), individual writing and analytic skills and time management (thorough the preparation of essays); critical reading and analysis (through the preparation for weekly seminars); debating and facilitating skills and the ability to express themselves on complex topics in an understandable way (through the seminar discussions).

15 ECTS credits

Reading List

Essential Reading
Foucault, M (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977 (ed by C Gordon) Harvester Press Primo search Loomba, A (1998) Colonialism/Postcolonialism Routledge Primo search Williams, P and Chrisman, L eds (1994) Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader Harvester Wheatsheaf Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7