Postcolonialism and feminism(s) (2017/18)

Course Description: 

In this 4-credit course, we will identify and trace the centrality of gender to the processes and problematics of colonialism, postcolonialism, nationalism and transnationalism, and the ways in which feminism(s) have been shaped both by and within these different contexts. Postcolonial scholarship emerged in the wake of nineteenth century imperial expansion and more critically during the first part of the twentieth-century as colonies struggled for independence and self-determination. By rejecting western hegemony, the postcolonial paradigm challenges the dominance of the liberal and rationalistic Enlightenment episteme by engaging with the “other”. Postcolonial feminist thought, as one might expect, prioritizes concerns with gender, feminism, and women’s lives within the broader framework of imperialism and capitalism.


Postcolonial feminist theory has and continues to be interested in exploring why and how women have served as symbols in the nationalist imaginary, as well as through the historical roles they have played in many anti- colonial struggles. A closely related subject of interest is the situation of women caught in a conflict that all colonial/postcolonial societies experience acutely, that between a putative ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. We will explore the implications of queer sexualities on this area of study, and look at how this method has implications for studies of national, imperial and ‘international’ politics. The course will look at decolonized spaces and the politics of gendered citizenship, especially as it relates to the state’s investment in gender regimes; the law’s regulation of sexuality; the politics of female labor; and the centrality of gender to development. We will conclude with a look at feminisms, both local and global, and the women’s movement across multiple contexts. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and engage with the major themes outlined in the course syllabus, and offer a critical interpretation of all class readings assigned to these themes.
  • Understand the key theoretical developments in the field of postcolonial and subaltern feminist pedagogy, as well as critical feminist critique to the problems and problematics of colonialism, imperialism, nationalism and capitalism. 
  • Adopt an intersectional approach to the major themes of the course, and understand how gendered experiences and the interpretations of feminists and their allies, both in the past and in the present, have and continue to shape the ways we conceptualize a postcolonial feminism.
  • Engage actively with the key fields of colonial, postcolonial and imperial developments that subaltern and postcolonial feminist theory have critiqued, and be able to distinguish a multitude of different feminism(s).