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ENGLISH 3R06A Postcolonial Cultures

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Multiterm

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Chandrima Chakraborty


Office: Chester New Hall 309

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23777


Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:30-2:30pm, and by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

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 questions that reflect colonial histories and policies as well as decolonial practices in the Canadian present before we 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, concepts, 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, postcolonialism and decolonization.

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

· 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.

Course Objectives:

  •  Introduce students to critical terms and theoretical concepts of colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonization.
  •  Highlight intersections between a variety of discourses of identity, including discourses of gender, sexuality, class,  race, religion, and nation
  •  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:

Required Texts

Coursepack available at Campus bookstore

Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India

Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

Tsitsi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions

Alex la Guma, A Walk in the Night and Other Stories

Anita Rau Badami Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

Method of Assessment:

Student Responsibilities and Grade Structure

Tutorial Participation and Assignment (5% per term)                           10%

Response Papers (300 words, 4 @ 2.5 % each; Term 1)                     10%

Community-engaged Event Reflection Paper (450 words; Term 1)      10%

First Essay (1500 words), due November 7, 2017                                15%

Oral Presentation (12 mins; Term 2)                                                      10%

Second Essay (2000 words, due March 20, 2017)                                20%

Final Exam (cumulative)                                                                        25%

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:




Sept 5: Introduction to course/course logistics

Unit 1: Canada @ 150

Issues: colonialism, imperialism, postcolonialism, anticolonialism, nationalism, citizenship

Sept 12: Ania Loomba, “Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Studies”

Sept 19: Joy Kogawa, “What Do I Remember of the Evacuation?”

            Helen Knott, “Invisible”

            Himani Banerjee, “The Other Family”

Laura Moss, “Is Canada Postcolonial? Introducing the question”

Unit 2: Anti-colonial Resistance

Issues: anticolonial dissent, violence, nonviolence, activism, the body, apartheid, self-rule

Sept 26: Jennifer Tupper, “Social Media and the Idle No More Movement: Citizenship, Activism and Dissent in Canada”

Mahatma Gandhi, “Preface” and “Passive Resistance”

Chandrima Chakraborty, “Speaking Through Bodies, Exhibiting the Limits: British Colonialism and Gandhian Nationalism”

Oct 3: Frantz Fanon, “Concerning Violence”

Alex la Guma, “A Walk in the Night”

Class screening: Trevor Noah

Oct 10:  Midterm Recess

Unit 3: Empire and Writing

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

Oct 17: Ellke Boehmer, “Imperialism and Textuality”

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden”

Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Minute on Indian Education”

Oct 24: Ania Loomba, “Colonial Discourse”

Edward Said, “Introduction,” Orientalism

Edward Said on Orientalism, dir. Sut Jhally (in-class screening)

Unit 4: Representation

Issues: colonial gaze, language debate, colonialist criticism, education, decolonization

Oct 31: Patricia Jasen, Native People and the Tourist Industry in Nineteenth-Century Ontario”

Terence Houle, Urban Indian Series (in-class discussion)

Chinua Achebe, “Colonialist Criticism”

Nov 7: Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 31-46 (link on avenue2learn)

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, “The Language of African Literature”

Unit 5: Education

Issues: education and colonialism, education and the self, education and society, education and the public

Nov 14: Sugar Cane Alley [Rue cases nègres], dir. Euzhan Palcy (in-class screening)

Nov 21: Sugar Cane Alley

Tsitisi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions

Nov 28: Tsitisi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions


Term II

Unit 6: From Colony to Nation: Partition of British India

Issues: independence, nation, recovery and rehabilitation, gender, representing trauma

Jan 9: William Dalrymple, “The Great Divide: The Violent Legacy of Indian Partition”

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

Jan 16: Bapsi Sidhwa Cracking India

Class presentation

Jan 23: Bapsi Sidhwa Cracking India

Class Presentation

Unit 7: Postcolonial Cities

Issues: space, sexuality, racism, belonging, alienation, multiculturalism, diaspora

Jan 30: Stuart Hall, “Cultural identity and Diaspora”

Shani Mootoo, “Out on Main Street”

Feb 6: Sunera Thobani, “Multiculturalism and the Liberalizing Nation”

Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

Class Presentation

Feb 13: Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

Class Presentation

Feb 20: Winter Break ---no classes

Unit 8: Unfinished Pasts

Issues: space, history, memory, trauma, grief, religion, citizens and foreigners

Feb 27: Chandrima Chakraborty, Amber Dean and Angela Failler, “Introduction: The Art of Public Mourning”  

Stephen Harper, “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada at the Commemoration Ceremony for the 25th Anniversary of the Air India Flight 182 Atrocity”         

Mar 6: Sara Ahmed, “Melancholic Migrants” (excerpt) 121-133

Anita Rau Badami Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

Class Presentation

Mar 13: Anita Rau Badami Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

Class Presentation

 Unit 9: Art, Activism, Critique

Issues: gaze, cinematic representations, orientalizing the orient, race, gender, sexuality

Mar 20: Tania Kamal-Eldin, Hollywood Harems (24 minutes) in-class screening

Jiwani, Yasmin, “The Exotic, Erotic, and the Dangerous: South Asian Women in Popular Film”

Stuart Hall, Ed. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. 264-05

Diana Ferrus, “Tribute to Saara Baartman”

Mar 27: Adrienne Clarkson on non-belonging (in class screening) 5mins 

Olive Senior, “Colonial Girls’ School” 

April 3: MIA “Borders”

Exam Review


Other Course Information:

Lecture Attendance

Students are required to complete assigned readings prior to the lecture. Please come prepared to contribute to the discussion and respond to questions posed in the lectures. You will be tested on material discussed in lectures in your final exam, so attendance in lecture is important 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 will submit a 300-word critical response to 4 course readings in Term 1. You can submit only one response per week. The critical response should be a concise, thoughtful and well-written analysis of ONE question or issue or theme that you find interesting from one of the texts assigned for that week. All papers have to be submitted in the course dropbox on avenue2learn prior to the class in which the text is being discussed (i.e. before Tuesday 10.30 am). Late assignments will not be marked. You cannot submit a reading response on the novel or film you select for your first essay.

Community-engaged Event Reflection Paper

Each student will attend/participate in any ONE of these McMaster-supported community-engaged Fall events, Hamilton’s Gandhi Peace Festival (Sept 30, 2017, 1-5pm @ Hamilton City Hall) or Gandhi Peace Festival Conference “Education for Our Times” (October 1, 2017, 9.30-6pm @ McMaster Innovation Park; morning/afternoon sessions), and submit a 450-words reflection in the course dropbox on avenue2learn within 2 weeks from the event date.


There are two essays assigned for this course: one for each term. Essay topics with instructions will be posted on the course website and announced in class. You should be able to draw on 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. Please follow MLA format (refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers available in the library) or another approved style, and include a Works Cited page. All essays will be marked for content and writing style: argument, analysis, grammar, clarity of writing, and organization. Essays should be: double-spaced, use 12 pt. Times New Roman font, and have 1-inch margins. Essays are to be submitted in the dropbox on avenue2learn. To improve essay skills, you are encouraged to seek advice from the Writing Tutors in the Department of English and Cultural Studies.

Oral Presentation (12mins; Term 2)

Each student will choose a topic from a pre-circulated list for their 12 mins oral presentation on a novel in Term 2. Topics will be circulated at the beginning of the winter term. Through the oral presentation, students will take an active role in shaping the discussions on the novel under consideration. Please submit a copy of your presentation on the course website by 10.30 am on the day of your presentation or earlier. You will not be marked on the written presentation; it is for my reference purposes only. You will be marked on two aspects of your oral presentation: a. content (argument, analysis, clarity) and b. oral delivery (tone, ability to engage audience, solicit participation). Assigned presentation dates cannot be rescheduled. Failure to show up on assigned dates will result in a grade of zero.

Electronic use

You are welcome to bring your electronic gadgets (laptops, tablets, etc) 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 the electronic device 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.