The Postcolonial Method: A Critique of the Discourses of Modernity

Reading Lists

This course will delineate the methodology of Postcolonial theory as a specific critique of the discourses of modernity. We will study this critical method in relation to Postmodernism, from which it will be distinguished, and other contemporary theories such as Psychoanalysis and Post-Marxism. Some broad questions that we shall ask are: How does the postcolonial critique of modernity complicate notions of subjectivity in relation to issues of gender, sexuality and race. What or who is "the postcolonial subject"? How do we intervene in the west's hegemonic notion of modernity, its calculation of time, its conception of (economic or civic) development, of progress, its forms of knowledge gathering? What does the postcolonialist hope to achieve through such intervention? Throughout we will be interested in the discursive space marked by postcoloniality as it engages with modernity as an intimate and "extimate" antagonist.

Requirements: One longish research paper at the end of the term. Prospectus due on Feb 17; Rough draft due on March 31; Final draft due on May 10. This class will be run as a seminar. Therefore, seminar participants will be called on randomly to present the reading for the day. Please prepare for each class by keeping in mind the likelihood of your having to lead the discussion. You may be called upon in consecutive weeks, so please be prepared. Your notes should be coherent, legible, and should go beyond mere summary. Please aim to draw out questions and potential problems for understanding by referring to specific passages in the text and thinking about the relevance and utility of the reading for your own project.

Jan 20: Introductions. Course goals. What is a "critique"? What is a "Critical Philosophy?" What is Modernity? Thinking through the Enlightenment.


Jan 27: Kant "What is Enlightenment?" and Foucault's "What is Enlightenment?"; Nietzsche "From Twilight of the Idols" (photocopies); Adorno and Horkheimer The Dialectic of Enlightenment "The Concept of the Enlightenment" 3-42

Feb 3: Adorno and Horkeimer The Dialectic of Enlightenment "Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality"81-119; and "Elements of Anti-Semitism: Limits of Enlightenment" 168-208

Imperialism, Totalitarianism

Feb 10: Hannah Arendt The Origins of Totalitarianism "Imperialism" Chapters V, VI, VII. 123-221; optional : Chapter IX, 267-302 Optional: Wolfgang Mommsen Theories of Imperialism


Feb 17: Said Orientalism Introduction 1-28; "The Scope of Orientalism" 31-72 and 92-110; "Orientalism Now: The Latest Phase" 284-328 Optional: Thomas Richards "Archive and Utopia" Representations 37, Winter 1992 104-135

Feb 24:Johannes Fabian Time and The Other Chapter One "Time and the Emerging Other" 1-35; Chapter Two "Our Time, Their Time, No Time" 37-52; Chapter Three "Time and Writing About the Other" 71-104; Conclusion 143-166. Optional: Talal Asad Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter "Introduction" (9-20); Wendy James "The Anthropologist as Reluctant Imperialist" in Asad (41-70). Samir Amin Eurocentrism

Origins, Speech, Historiography, and Writing

March 10:Derrida: Monolingualism of the Other: or, the Prosthesis of Origin; Bhabha "The Commitment to Theory" from The Location of Culture (photocopy)

March 17:: Robert Young White Mythologies Chapter One "White Mythologies" 1-20; Chapter Two "Marxism and the Question of History" 21-27; Chapter Seven "Disorienting Orientalism" 119-140; Chapter Eight "The Ambivalence of Bhabha" 141-156; and Chapter Nine "Spivak: Decolonization, Deconstruction" 157-175 Optional: Dipesh Chakrabarty "Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for 'Indian' Pasts?" Representations 37, Winter 1992 1-25.

The Subject "Woman"

March 24: Chandra Mohanty "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses," in Feminist Review 30 (Autumn, 1988): 61-88;"; Madhu Kishwar, "Why I Don't Call Myself a Feminist." Manushi 61 (Nov.-Dec. 1990)

March 31: Spivak "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture 271-313 Optional: Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other "Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism" Chapter 3 (pp.79-113).


April 7: Foucault The History of Sexuality, Vol I Part One "We 'Other' Victorians"; Part Two: The Incitement to Discourse (3-35) ; Part Four "Periodozation" and Part Five (115-159) . Ann Laura Stoler Race and the Education of Desire Chapters II and III. Foucault Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth edited Paul Rabinow: Selections


April 14: Teresa Brennan History After Lacan, Part One.

Civil Society; Objectivity, Rationality, Discourse

April 21:Charles Taylor; Partha Chatterjee Public Culture (photocopies) Jurgen Habermas from Philosophical Discourses on Modernity (photocopy) Satya Mohanty Literary Theory and the Claims of History (photocopy)

Multiculturalism and Politics

April 28: Will Kymlicka Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

May 5: Laclau and Mouffe Hegemony and Socialist Strategy

Photocopied readings will be made available in class. Auditors please borrow or make your own copies from the originals posted on my door.