Hew Locke

Imperial Entanglements: an Introduction to Postcolonial Theory (In-Person)

Instructor: Nara Roberta Silva
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #308
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Often pigeonholed as a purely academic endeavor, postcolonial theory cannot be disconnected from the anti-colonial struggles that upended the postwar world—and that continue to rage today. It’s a living theory, one that seeks to address the ongoing realities, complexities, and legacies of colonial and neocolonial domination after theoretical “independence.” Having several origins—from literary studies to Marxist historiography to anti-colonial thought itself—postcolonial theory examines marginality, difference, migration, slavery, servitude, identity, race, gender, geography, nationhood, violence, and resistance as phenomena that fit uneasily within Eurocentric models and that often challenge the universality of key Western concepts. Unifying such an incredibly diverse field are different critiques of how colonialism and imperialism advanced particular forms of knowledge, as well as the effort to theorize strategies that materially and discursively challenge Western hegemony. How can we think about imperial domination beyond the simple binary of colony and metropole, in its actual locally variegated forms? How does postcolonial thought and research complement, complicate, or critique, other forms of radical theory? How should we understand global systems of political and economic subjugation that nevertheless take place unevenly, inconsistently, and with often substantively different features across different geographies? How can the postcolonial critique of imperial knowledge, structure, and practice enable new understandings and new strategies today?

In this course, we will survey the historical origins, theoretical directions, and central debates in the diverse field known as postcolonial theory. Throughout, we’ll explore fundamental postcolonial themes like representation and resistance; universality and difference; nationalism and hybridity; indigeneity and feminism; and more. Students will be invited to reflect on all the questions raised by postcolonial theory. What are the possibilities opened by it? And what are the pitfalls it faces? What are the limits endemic to Western thought and criticized by postcolonial authors? How does one address the agency of colonized and formally colonized subjects? How can we think resistance to or emancipation from colonial domination when its legacies and structures are still so pervasive, even inscribed in individuals? What is the politics of postcolonial thinking? Is it possible to talk about double colonization—imperialism and patriarchy, for example? Does postcolonial theory end up reinscribing the essentialism it ostensibly or overtly refuses in Western thought? What are the continuities and discontinuities between anticolonial, postcolonial, and decolonial thought? And finally, can Western frameworks of knowledge and analysis be re-worked and reconstructed in response to the challenges posed by postcolonial theory? In addressing these questions, students will read selections from Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Gayatri Spivak, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Bill Ascroft, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Gloria Anzaldúa, Robert Young, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Julian Go, Enrique Dussel, Walter Mignolo, and others.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
September 12 — October 03, 2022
4 weeks


Registration Open