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ENGLISH 3GG3 Thries Decoloniztion & Resist (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2019

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Nadine Attewell


Office: Chester New Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24492

Office Hours: Mondays 10:00-11:30AM

Course Objectives:


In this course, we will reflect on the implications of living in a world shaped by empire and chart historical and ongoing projects for decolonization through readings of scholarship (public and academic) and cultural production (mainly film and poetry). In the process, we will engage with important debates in Indigenous and postcolonial theory, including as these touch on histories of settler colonialism; racial capitalism; education and knowledge; gender, sexuality, and intimacy; war; (im)migration and the border; environmental violence; protest and (non)violent action; and solidarity.  


This course will

            ― introduce you to some of the most urgent and high-stakes social, political, and cultural issues

                        of our time;

            ― highlight classics of Indigenous, postcolonial, and diasporic thought as well as emerging voices

                        in the field;

            ― help you to develop your confidence in working with scholarship and cultural production to

                        think about phenomena in the world;

            ― foster your skills of close analysis and critical thinking;

            ― give you the opportunity to improve your skills of analysis and communication, by offering

                        guidance in the art of composing effective essays and other kinds of writing, as well as

                        substantive feedback on assignments;

            ― and challenge you to exercise curiosity about the world you inhabit; to ask questions about

                        what you don’t know, as well as about what (you think) you do; and to listen.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts

A course reader is available for purchase at the campus store. Other readings (marked [A2L] are available in PDF format through Avenue to Learn.

If cost is an issue, please get in touch with the teaching team, and we will arrange alternatives.

You are responsible for watching one film on your own: Kanehsatake (1993), which is available for viewing on YouTube and the website of the National Film Board of Canada (see A2L for more details). We will watch a second film – Mina Shum’s The Ninth Floor (2015) – together in class.

Method of Assessment:

Grade Breakdown

Attendance and engagement: 15%

Short assignment: 15%

Lecture notes: 5%

Short expository essay (1500 words): 25%

Final project (a statement of intent & 3000-word expository essay or alternative): 40%                 


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


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

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 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 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:

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

September 9    Introductions

Unit 1 – De/colonizing Methodologies: The Place of Learning

Questions to consider: where does knowledge take place? Where are we, and how does this matter to our learning? Where do our knowledges come from, and how have they been shaped by colonial projects of rule? Whose knowledges, or which knowledges, matter? Is it necessary, desirable, and possible to know – think/write/speak/listen – otherwise, and if so, how? Can Euro-American institutions of learning – such as the university – and epistemologies be decolonized, and if so, how?

September 16  Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, from As We Have Always Done [A2L]

                        Shane Rhodes, “The Promise/Broken Land” & “check against delivery” [A2L]

                        Daniel Coleman, from Yardwork [CP]

                        Noor Khan, dir., EAST: A Relationship [watch on your own; A2L]

September 23  Linda Tuhiwai Smith, from Decolonising Methodologies [CP]

                        Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan, “Education Week” [A2L]

                        Olive Senior, “Colonial Girls School” [CP]

                        Solmaz Sharif, “Inspiration Point, Berkeley” [CP]

September 30  Mina Shum, dir., The Ninth Floor [in-class viewing]

                        Mandatory short assignment due

October 7        M. Nourbese Philip, “A Genealogy of Resistance” [CP]

                        Qwo-Li Driskill, “Beginning Cherokee” [CP]

                        Leah Decter and Jamie Isaac, “Reflections on Unsettling Narratives of Denial” [CP]


October 14      Fall Break


Unit 2 – Constellations of Co/resistance: Conversation, Collectivity, Protest


Questions to consider: what do resistance and decolonization look (or sound) like? What methodologies for struggle might they entail, and why? Who can participate and how? What is the place of violence in anticolonial and other forms of struggle? Granted that “colonialism is marked by its specializations” (Tuck and Yang 21), how have decolonizing projects in different parts of the world learned from one another? What might we learn from revisiting earlier moments in the history of anti-colonial struggle and decolonization?


October 21      Alanis Obomsawin, dir., Kanehsatake [watch on your own; A2L]

                        Audra Simpson, “Indigenous Interruptions” [CP]

                        Shane Rhodes, “Soundscape as Landscape: Caledonia” [A2L]

                        Short essay due                  

October 28      Alanis Obomsawin, Kanehsatake (cont’d)

                        George Orwell, “Killing an Elephant” [CP]

                        Deb Cowen, “Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance” [A2L]

                        Make-up short assignment due

November 4    M. K. Gandhi, “Letter to the Viceroy” [CP]

                        Frantz Fanon, from “On Violence” [CP]

                        Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” [A2L]                 

                        James C. Scott, from Domination and the Arts of Resistance [CP]

                        Judith Butler, from Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly [CP]               

November 11  Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger” [CP]

                        Carol-Lynne D’Arcangelis and Audrey Huntley, “No More Silence” [CP]

                        Billy-Ray Belcourt and Maura Roberts, “Making Friends” [A2L]

                        Leanne Simpson, from As We Have Always Done [A2L]

November 18  Present-Tense Emergencies [short readings TBD]

                        Statement of intent due

Unit 3 – Stolen From Our Bodies: Gender, Sexuality, Intimacy

Questions to consider: in what ways has the body been a target of colonial violence, a site of anticolonial resistance, and a resource for decolonization? That is, how have colonial and racist structures of power grown up alongside and in articulation with patriarchal and heteronormative ones? How can and must people’s relationships to their bodies and embodied relations be transformed as part of the work of decolonization? Can love be decolonized? Is it decolonizing?

November 25  Leanne Simpson, from As We Have Always Done [A2L]

                        Rebecca Belmore, “Vigil” and “Fringe” [A2L]

                        Lisa Jackson, dir., Savage [A2L]

December 2     Samantha Marie Nock, “there’s no word for decolonial love” [A2L]

                        Qwo-Li Driskill, from Walking with Ghosts [CP]

                        Billy-Ray Belcourt, “On ‘Moving Too Fast’” [A2L]

Other Course Information:

Course Requirements

1. General expectations: this class requires that you engage in rigorous forms of critical inquiry. That is, it’s about asking and attempting to answer interesting and high-stakes questions raised by a variety of kinds of texts. Some of these texts may challenge what you know (or think you know) about yourself, others, and the world in general; others may affirm and fuel you in your struggles. As teachers, our job is to assist you to engage productively with course texts and conversations, which may sometimes leave you feeling excited, confused, unsettled, uncomfortable, inspired, angry, sad, or all of the above. Whatever you’re feeling and thinking, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, or requests for help.

It is important that you try to attend all lectures and tutorials: conversations with a trusted group of interlocutors are a crucial component of critical inquiry, and require investments of time, energy, generosity, and attention. In other words, you should always be prepared to participate, both in lecture and in tutorial. Class is the place to raise comprehension questions, as well as to demonstrate and develop your critical thinking and speaking abilities. Commit to reading the assigned texts by the date listed with care, attention, and engagement. Bring the readings to class. Take notes! Scribble and doodle in the margins! If you are anxious about speaking in public, prepare something, however brief, to say, and/or get in touch with us for assistance and alternatives. Attendance and engagement are together worth 15% of your final grade.

2. Short assignment: to give you practice in rigorously engaging with the critical and theoretical readings, you will complete a short written assignment early in the semester worth 15% of your final grade. You will also have the opportunity to submit an optional second short assignment later in the semester, to bolster your mark on the first. For more information about the mandatory and optional short assignments, please see the handout I’ve posted to A2L.

3. Lecture notes and reflection: as a way to facilitate your engagement and comprehension in lecture, and to generate an archive of course notes for those requiring them, once during the semester, you will be responsible for assembling a readable, point-form record of the weekly lecture. Although these notes are worth 5% of your final mark, they will not be graded. I will dock marks only if your notes seem skimpy or inaccurate. Otherwise, you will receive full marks. If lecture notes are difficult for you to write up, please get in touch with Dr. Attewell for an alternative assignment.

Please upload your notes as soon as possible, or by 6 pm on the Friday following your assigned lecture.

4. Short expository essay: you will compose at least one formal piece of writing this semester, a short expository essay of approximately 1500 words (4-5 pages) due October 21 and worth 25% of your final mark. In it, you will develop and offer detailed support for a critical thesis in response to one of a set of prompts devised by the teaching team (to be posted on A2L).  

5. Final project: in addition to the short essay, you will be required to prepare a longer, more substantial piece of work for submission at the end of the semester. For this assignment, you may choose to write an expository essay of approximately 3000 words (7-8 pages), on a topic of our devising or yours; or you may choose to work in another genre or medium altogether (e.g. poetry, photography, video, sound). A 

statement of intent (worth 5% of your final mark) is due on November 18; the final project is due on December 9 and is worth 35% of your final mark. More information about this assignment will be forthcoming in lecture and on A2L.

6. Please note that this course has no final exam.