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ENGLISH 3R06A Postcolonial Cultures

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Chandrima Chakraborty


Office: Chester New Hall 309

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23777


Office Hours: Fridays 2-3 pm, 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 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, 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 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:

Required Texts

Coursepack available at Campus bookstore

Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

Tsitsi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions

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

Sambene Ousmane, God’s bits of Wood

Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

Thrity Umrigar, The World We Found


Euzhan Palcy, dir. Sugar Cane Alley [Rue cases nègres], 1 hr 43 mins  

Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, dir. Pinjar, 3hr 8mins

Gurinder Chadha, dir. Bend it like Beckham, 1hr 12 mins

Method of Assessment:

Student Responsibilities and Grade Structure

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

Term 1 Creative Text Response (750 words; 2 @7.5% each)            15%

Term 1 Essay (1500 words), due Nov 4, 2015                                   15%

Term 2 Response Papers (300 words, 4 @ 2.5 % each)                     10%

Term 2 Essay (2000 words, due March 2, 2015)                               20%

Final Exam (cumulative)                                                                     30%


The films are 2 to 3-hours long and might not be readily available. All the films are on reserve at Mills library. A screening time and room will be reserved after consultation with students in the course. These are optional and you may watch the films on your own at the library viewing stations. You must view each film BEFORE the week in which it is being discussed.

Lecture Attendance

Students are required to complete assigned readings or film viewings prior to the lecture. Please come prepared to contribute to the discussion and respond to questions posed in the lecture. 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).


Creative Text Response (Term 1 only)

Each student will write TWO critical responses (700-750 words each) to either a novel or a film in Term 1. You are to analyze one issue or question raised by the text by focusing on:

a) an episode or a character or a mis-en-scene or an image etc. OR b) you can respond to a scholarly interpretation of the text. This short assignment requires you to be precise and to offer a focused analysis by drawing upon readings we have been discussing in class and an additional external scholarly source (scholarly journal article or book chapter). The paper should not exceed the word limit. It should be a double-spaced 12-point font typed analysis submitted in the dropbox on avenue2learn prior to our discussion of that text in class (i.e. before Wednesday 3.30pm). Assignments submitted after 3.30 pm on the day the text is being discussed in class will be penalized at 2% per day, including weekends. The only exception is if you choose to write a critical response to Padma Viswanathan’s novel. In that case, your critical response paper will be due on Oct 14 (Wednesday, by 3.30pm).


Response Papers (Term 2 only)

Each student will submit a 300-word critical response to 4 course readings in Term 2. 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 texts assigned for that week. All papers have to be submitted in the dropbox on avenue2learn prior to the class (i.e. before Wednesday 3.30pm). Late assignments will not be marked. This assignment will evaluate your ability to produce a concise, thoughtful and well-written analysis of ONE issue from ONE fictional/cinematic/theoretical text. You cannot submit a reading response on the novel or film you select for your final essay.



There are two essays assigned for this course: one for each term. Essay topics with instructions will be posted on the course website. 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. All essays will be marked for content and style: argument, analysis, grammar, clarity of writing, and organization. Essays should be double-spaced, use 12 pt. Times New Roman font, have 1-inch margins. Essays are to be submitted in the dropbox on the course website. You can choose to take two extra days to submit your essays without receiving late penalty, but you will receive minimal comments on your essay. After the 2 extra days late essays will be penalized by 2% per day, including weekends, and will not receive any comments. To improve essay skills, you are encouraged to seek advise from the Writing Tutors in the Department of English and Cultural Studies. Topics and instructions for the two essays will be handed out in lecture.


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.


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 9: Introduction to course/course logistics

Unit 1: Is Canada Postcolonial?: A case study of the 1985 Air India bombings

Issues: colonialism, imperialism, postcolonial, anticolonialism, neocolonialism, decolonization, citizens and immigrants, racism, grief, memory, history  

Sept 16: Ania Loomba, “Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Studies” 1-12

CBC Digital Archives of the 1985 Air India Tragedy

Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

Sept 23: Author visit and Talk: Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

(attendance is mandatory for this event)

Sept 30: Ania Loomba, “Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Studies”, 12-18

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

Unit 2: Empire and Writing

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

Oct 7: Ellke Boehmer, “Imperialism and Textuality”

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (link on avenue2learn)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Minute on Indian Education”

Oct 14:  Reading Week

Oct 21: Ania Loomba, “Colonial Discourse”

Edward Said, “Introduction,” Orientalism

Patricia Jasen, “Native People and the Tourist Industry in Nineteenth-Century Ontario”

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

Unit 3: Representations and Decolonization

Issues: decolonizing the mind, language debate, colonialist criticism, education

Oct 28: Screening: Sugar Cane Alley [Rue cases nègres], dir. Euzhan Palcy

Nov 4: Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 31-46 (link on avenue2learn)

Chinua Achebe, “Colonialist Criticism”

Nov 11: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, “The Language of African Literature”

Tsitisi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions

Unit 4: Resistance

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

 Nov 18: Frantz Fanon, “Concerning violence” (excerpt)

Alex la Guma, “A Walk in the Night”

Nov 25:  Mahatma Gandhi, “Preface” and “Passive Resistance”, Hind Swaraj

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

Dec 2: Sambene Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood

Term II

Unit 5: From Colony to Nation: Partition of British India

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

Jan 6: 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 13: Pinjar, Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, dir. 3 hr 8mins (film screening)

Priya Jaikumar, “Bollywood Spectaculars”

Stef Craps and Gert Beulens, “Introduction: Postcolonial Trauma Novels”

Jan 20: Pinjar  (film screening)

Priya Kumar, “Acts of Return: Literature and Post-Partition Memory”

Sadaat Hasan Manto “Khol Do”

Unit 6: Postcolonial Cities

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

Jan 27: Stuart Hall, “Cultural identity and Diaspora”

Shani Mootoo, “Out on Main Street”

Feb 3: Louise Bennett, “Colonization in Reverse”

Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (excerpt)

DDLJ [Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge], Karan Johar, dir (opening scene)

Terence Houle’s photographs

Feb 10: Sunera Thobani, “Multiculturalism and the Liberalizing Nation”

Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

 Unit 7: Visual Cultures

Issues: gaze, cinematic representations, orientalizing the orient, tourism and travel, female body

Feb 17: Winter Break ---no classes

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

Amita Nijhawan, “Excusing the Female Dancer: Tradition and Transgression in Bollywood Dancing”

Mar 2: Gurinder Chadha dir. Bend it like Beckham (to be viewed prior to class)

Sara Ahmed, “Melancholic Migrants” (excerpt)

Unit 8: Unfinished Pasts

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

Mar 9: Letti Volp, “The Citizen and the Terrorist”  

Stephen Harper, “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada at the Commemoration Ceremony for the 25th Anniversary of the Air India Flight 182 Atrocity.” Toronto, 23 June, 2010 (link on avenue2learn)

Chandrima Chakraborty, “Remembering the Air India Tragedy in an Age of Terror” (excerpt)

Mar 16: Thrity Umrigar, The World We Found

Ravinder Kaur, “Home Alone” (excerpt)

Mar 23: Class Discussion: Thrity Umrigar, The World We Found and Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

Unit 9: The Future of Postcolonial studies

Mar 30: Exam Review


Other Course Information:

1: In the event of class cancellations, students will be notified on the course website on avenue2learn and on the English Department Website.  It is your responsibility to check the sites regularly for any such announcements.



Important Note 2: Tutorials Participation: Students are expected to attend every tutorial and to be prepared to discuss the material weekly. In Term I, tutorials start one week after classes begin. In Term II, tutorials start the week that classes resume in Winter 2015.

Accommodations: 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.

Students will be requested to complete an online course evaluation at the end of the course.