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ENGLISH 3GG3 Thries Decoloniztion & Resist (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Nadine Attewell


Office: Chester New Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24492

Office Hours: Tuesdays 10:30-12:00pm

Course Objectives:


What comes after empire? 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 racial capitalism, settler colonialism, gender and sexuality, war, globalization, and environmental change.  


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 postcolonial and Indigenous thought as well as emerging voices in the


            ― 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

Two texts are available for purchase at the campus store:

            ― Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done (U. of Minnesota Press, 2017)

            ― and a custom reader.

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

You are responsible for watching two films on your own: Kanehsatake (1993), which is free for viewing on YouTube and the website of the National Film Board of Canada; and Black Panther (2017).

Method of Assessment:

Grade Breakdown

Attendance and engagement: 10%

Short assignment: 15%

Lecture notes (5%) and reflection (10%): 15%

Short expository essay (1500 words): 25%

Final project (a 3000-word expository essay or substantive alternative): 35%             

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 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 10% 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 assignment early in the semester worth 10% 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.

In addition to submitting your notes, you will compose a brief reflection (250-500 words) that takes up some aspect of the material covered during lecture. The reflection is worth 10% of your final mark and will be graded. Please the course A2L site for more information about how to focus and craft this piece of writing.

Both your notes and reflection must be uploaded to A2L 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 23 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 is due on November 13; the final project is due on December 4 and is worth 35% of your final mark. More information about this assignment will be forthcoming in lecture and on A2L.


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

*all readings available in the courseware packet except where otherwise indicated *


September 4    Devyn Springer (HalfAtlanta), “Words Mean Things: Colonialism (in class)

                        Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân), “Beyond Territorial Acknowledgments” (in class)


September 11  Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, from As We Have Always Done (2017) [1-25]

                        Leanne Simpson and Dionne Brand, “Temporary Spaces of Joy and Freedom” (2018)

                        George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant” (1936)

                        Solmaz Sharif, “Inspiration Point, Berkeley” (2016)

Unit 1: Decolonization is Not a Metaphor – The Terrain of Struggle

Questions to consider: what do resistance and decolonization look (or sound) like? If, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang memorably write, “decolonization is not a metaphor” (3), what is it? What methodologies for struggle does it entail? 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? Who is addressed by the call to decolonize, and how?

September 18  Frantz Fanon, “On Violence” (1961)

                        Göran Olssen, dir., Concerning Violence (2014) [optional; on reserve]

                        Stokely Carmichael, “What We Want” (1966) [A2L]

                        George Manuel, from The Fourth World (1974)

                        Christopher J. Lee, “At the Rendezvous of Decolonization” (2009)

September 25  James C. Scott, from Domination and the Arts of Resistance (1990)

                        Audra Simpson, “Indigenous Interruptions” (2014)

                        Mandatory short assignment due                   

October 2        Alanis Obomsawin, Kanehsatake (1993) [A2L]

                        Deb Cowen, “Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance” (2017) [A2L]

October 9        Fall Break

October 16      Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) [A2L]

                        Bonita Lawrence and Enakshi Dua, “Decolonizing Antiracism” (2005)

                        Daniel Coleman, from Yardwork (2017) [A2L]

                        Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, from As We Have Always Done [211-231]    

Unit 2: Reparations Begin in the Body – Love, Violence, Intimacy, Sexuality

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?

October 23      Leanne Simpson, from As We Have Always Done [39-54]

                        Rebecca Belmore, “Vigil” (2002) and “Fringe” (2008) [A2L]

                        Samantha Marie Nock, “pākahamakew” (2017) [A2L]

                        Samantha Marie Nock, “there’s no word for decolonial love” (2017) [A2L]

                        Short essay due                    

October 30      Qwo-Li Driskill, “Stolen From Our Bodies” (2004)

                        Qwo-Li Driskill, from Walking with Ghosts (2005)

                        Billy-Ray Belcourt, “On ‘Moving Too Fast’” (2015) [A2L]

November 6    M. Nourbese Philip, “A Genealogy of Resistance” (1997) [A2L]

                        Harmony Holiday, “Reparations Begin in the Body” (2016) [A2L]

                        Lisa Jackson, “Savage” (2009) [A2L]

                        Make-up short assignment due

Unit 3: Decolonizing the Mind: A Curriculum for Change?

Questions to consider: what is the place of “thinking otherwise” in projects of decolonization? Does a focus on “decolonizing the mind” distract from other, more obviously material, projects of decolonization? Is it necessary, desirable, or possible to think – write/speak/listen – otherwise? To what extent, that is, can or should (post)colonial subjects strive to dispense with colonial or metropolitan frames of reference? Who must know and think otherwise, and how? Can colonial institutions of learning – such as the university – be decolonized, and if so, how?

November 13  Olive Senior, “Colonial Girls School” (1985)

                        Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, from Decolonizing the Mind (1986)

                        Qwo-Li Driskill, “Beginning Cherokee” (2005)

                        Statement of intent due

November 20  Gauri Viswanathan, from Masks of Conquest (1989) [A2L]

                        Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders” (1985)

                        William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1807) [A2L]

                        Sia Figiel, “The Daffodils from a Native’s Perspective” (1998) [A2L]        

November 27  Eve Fairbanks, “The Global Face of Student Protest” (2015) [A2L]

                        Moira McDonald, “Indigenizing the Academy” (2016) [A2L]

                        Brian Kamanzi, “Must Fall” (2017) [A2L]

                        Zoe Todd, “Indigenizing Canadian Academia” (2018) [A2L]         

December 4     Ryan Coogler, dir., Black Panther (2017) [on your own]

                        Final project due