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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Chandrima Chakraborty

Email: chandri@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 309

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23777


Office Hours: Mondays 2-3 pm, and by appointment

Course Objectives:

A study of contemporary texts including literature, film and other forms of popular culture that engage the implications of living in a postcolonial world. We will begin by raising some of the theoretical questions that have plagued postcolonial scholarship since its inception. We will then explore a variety of culturally specific texts that complicate our understanding of these broad questions. Each text will be carefully situated in its historical, political, ideological, and socio-economic contexts. Over the course of the year students will be offered a range of critical tools, terms and theoretical frameworks with which to negotiate the complex intersections of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, culture and power under the circumstances peculiar to colonialism, postcolonialism, imperialism and globalization.


Course Objectives

Introduce students to critical terms and theoretical concepts of colonialism and postcolonialism

Highlight intersections between a variety of discourses of identity, including discourses of gender, sexuality, class, race, religion, colonialism, and nationality

Develop your analytical skills of close reading and critical thinking

Give you the opportunity to improve your writing skills, by offering guidance on writing clear, well-argued, and well-supported essays

Challenge you to learn about different ways of thinking, doing and living in the world and revisit some of your own ways of thinking and doing.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The following texts are available for purchase at the Campus bookstore.

Alex la Guma A Walk in the Night

Renee Saklikar Children of Air India

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

Joy Kogawa, Obasan

Alan Duff, Once Were Warriors

Jose Dalisay, Soledad’s Sister

Two custom readers will also be available for purchase at the bookstore, one in September with the readings for Term I; one in January with the readings for Term II.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:




Unit 1: Sept 8-15: Introduction

Issues: Imperialism, Colonialism, Anticolonialism, Neocolonialism, Decolonization


Sept 8: Introduction to the course


Sept 15: Ania Loomba, “Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Studies”

Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 31-46 (link on Avenue to learn)


Unit 2: Sept 22-29: Empire and Writing

Issues: colonial discourse, knowledge/power, orientalism, orient/occident, hybridity


Sept 22: Ellke Boehmer, “Imperialism and Textuality”

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (link on Avenue to learn)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Minute on Indian Education”


Sept 29: Ania Loomba, “Colonial Discourse”

Edward Said, “From Orientalism”  

Edward Said, “On Orientalism” (video excerpt, in-class screening)


Unit 3: Oct 6-13: The Empire Writes Back

Issues: decolonizing the mind, comprador bourgeoisie, colonialist criticism, education and schooling, language debate


Oct 6: Ngugi wa Thiong’o “The Language of African Literature”

Chinua Achebe, “Colonialist Criticism”

Olive Senior, “Colonial Girls School”


Oct 13: Thanksgiving - no class


Unit 4: Oct 20-27: Resistance

Issues: violence, nonviolence, Manichean binaries, the body, masculinity, apartheid, sartorial politics, self-rule


            Oct 20: Frantz Fanon, “Concerning violence” (excerpt)

Alex la Guma A Walk in the Night


Oct 27: Chandrima Chakraborty, “Satygraha: Gandhi’s Political Praxis” (excerpt)

Emma Tarlo, “Gandhi and the Recreation of Indian Dress”


Unit 5: Nov 3-Nov 10: Gender and Sexuality

Issues: Indian partition, independence, nation, recovery and rehabilitation, cinematic representations (Bollywood and Hollywood), orientalizing the orient, male gaze, dance, female body


Nov 3: Urvashi Butalia, “Community, State and Gender: Some Reflections on the Partition of India”

Sadaat Hasan Manto “Khol Do” (link on avenue to learn)


Nov 10: Tania Kamal-Eldin, Hollywood Harems (24 minutes); “Kajra Re”, Bunty and Babli In-class screening

Amita Nijhawan, “Excusing the female dancer: Tradition and transgression in Bollywood dancing”


Unit 6: Nov 17-24: History and Memory: Air India—a case study

Issues: multiculturalism, liberalization, national subjects, citizens and immigrants, model minority, racism, grief, trauma, memory, history  


Nov 17: Sunera Thobani, “Multiculturalism and the liberalizing Nation”

Bharati Mukherjee “The Management of Grief”


Nov 24: Renee Saklikar, Children of Air India

Guest Lecture and Q & A with Renee Saklikar

Dec 1: Midterm survey--In Review- leading to term 2


Term II

Instructor: Dr. Karen Espiritu

Term II course outline will be circulated in class and posted on the course website on  Dec 1, 2014; Term II coursepack will be available for purchase at the Campus bookstore in December 2014.


Unit 7: Jan. 5-12: Race, Minority Identities, and Nationalism

Primary Text: Joy Kogawa, Obasan


Unit 8: Jan. 19-26: “Indigeneity” and Postcolonial Discourse

Primary Text: Alan Duff, Once Were Warriors


Unit 9: Feb. 2-9: Exploration, Travel, and Tourism

Primary Text: Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place


NOTE: Feb. 16–21: Mid-term Recess – No Classes


Unit 10: Feb. 23-March 2: Globalization

Primary Text: Jose Dalisay, Soledad’s Sister


Unit 11: March 9-16: 20th and 21st Century Diasporas

Primary Text: Achy Obejas, “We Came All the Way from Cuba So That You Could Dress Like



NOTE: March 13 – Last day for cancelling courses without failure by default


Unit 12: March 23-30 – The Legacies and Futures of Postcolonial Studies

Primary Texts: Samira Makhmalbaf, dir., God, Construction and Destruction;

                        Emmanuel Ortiz, “A Moment of Silence Before I Start This Poem (9/11/2002)”


April 6: Exam Review/Last Day of Class



Other Course Information:

Lecture Attendance

Students are required to come to lecture after having read assigned readings and prepared to contribute to the discussion. You will be tested on material discussed in lectures in your midterm and final exam, so you are expected to attend every lecture in order to receive a good grade in this course.


Tutorial Participation and Assignment

You will be marked for the quality of your analyses/observations in tutorial discussions (50% of your tutorial mark), and your TA will also assign you an assignment per term (50% of your tutorial mark).

Response Papers

Each student should submit a 300-word response to 5 course readings per term .You can submit only one response per week. The paper should be one-page, double-spaced 12 point font typed analysis of ONE issue or theme that you find interesting from one of the readings assigned for that week. All papers have to be submitted in the dropbox on avenue to learn prior to class. This assignment will evaluate your ability to produce a concise, thoughtful and well-written analysis of ONE issue from ONE reading.



You should be able to draw on the course readings and external scholarly sources (academic journals or book chapters) to produce a coherent and thoughtful essay that develops and proves a thesis of your own. It should follow MLA format (refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers available in the library) or another approved style, consistently observed, and include a Works Cited page. Essay topics with instructions will be handed out in lectures, and posted on the course website. All essays will be marked on grammar, clarity of writing, and organization, as well as content and analysis. Essays should be double spaced, use 12 pt. Times New Roman font, have 1” margins, and correctly use the Modern Language Association (MLA) format.

Essays are to be submitted in the dropbox on the course website. Late assignments will be penalized by 2% per day, including weekends and will not receive any comments, only a grade. To improve essay skills, you are encouraged to visit the Centre for Student Development (MUSC B107; x24711) and to seek advise from the Writing Tutors in the Department of English and Cultural Studies (CNH 321)

Topics and instructions for the two essays will be handed out in lecture.


Electronic use

You are welcome to bring laptops to class as long as they are used only for taking notes. Browsing social networking sites, websites, or doing other activities during class will result in your laptop being banned from the classroom. As a gesture of respect and consideration for everyone in the class, please turn off the sound on your phones (such as ringtones, alerts, etc.) and refrain from using them during lectures and tutorials.