Decolonization in History

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUSHS4334

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Rahul Kumar Ishwar

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course seeks to deal with the problematics and thematics of decolonization in the world history. It aims at enabling students to appreciate the changing nature of decolonization. The decolonization that happened in the immediate post-second world war period was significantly different from the contemporary decolonization movements. However, there are also many threads of continuity between the two. The course deals at length with two crucial demands of contemporary decolonization namely for reparations and repatriation. The course deals with the demands for reparations in both ex-colonies and in the countries like the United States where the demands for reparations by the afro-americans have gained significant societal and political support in recent years. This course seeks to problematize the concept of indigeneity and analyses where indigenous movements are threats to postcolonial nation states. The question of naming among the indigenous communities across different parts of the world is also taken up. One crucial aspect of neo-colonialism is the contemporary phenomenon of land grab in the third world. This represents a threat to the economic and food sovereignty of the third world countries. This course seeks to convey these themes to the students.

Course Outcomes:

  1. To appreciate the nature of both the post-second world war decolonization in Africa and Asia and the contemporary decolonization
  2. To understand the nature and demands of contemporary decolonization movements such as Occupy Movement, IdleNo More, BlackLivesMatter etc.
  3.  To grasp the demands for reparations and repatriation in both ex-colonies and within countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia etc.
  4. To understand neocolonialism especially in agrarian sphere including the nature of contemporary land grab in Asia and Africa
  5. To develop analytical writing skills through take home assignments and class tests.
  6. To be aware of the connections between decolonization of the past and decolonization of the present.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. The first module is introduction. It deals with the history of decolonization and seeks to explain to the students the difference between the post-second world war decolonization and the contemporary decolonization. The question of contemporary decolonization is elaborated with reference to five important case studies of contemporary decolonization.
  2. The second module deals with the question of indigeneity and asks whether movements of indigenous communities represent a threat to postcolonial nation states.
  3. The third module takes up the question of reparations and asks why reparations are still being debated. The precise significance of reparations, both monetary and symbolic, is elucidated.
  4. The fourth module deals with the theme of repatriation of both artefacts and archives. It delved deep into the relationship of repatriation with justice and identity.
  5. The final module asks some questions about neocolonization with reference to the contemporary land grab movement and the question of Palestine.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. A take home assignment related to any one of the five instances of contemporary decolonization movements. Presentation of the assignment was mandatory. It had 30 per cent weightage.
  2. A second take home assignment on the question of contemporary land grab. Presentation was compulsory. It had 30 per cent weightage.
  3. End semester examination with 40 per cent weightage.

Reading List:

  • Duara , Prasenjit (ed.). Decolonization: Perspectives from Now and Then. Routledge, 2003. Introduction and the section “In their own words” which offers brief extracts from the writings of major anti-colonial leaders, Ho Chi Minh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah etc.
  • Albert Memmi, Decolonization and the Decolonized. University Of Minnesota Press, 2006. “Solidarity of the Vanquished,” and “Headscarves and Metissage.
  • Adam Kuper, “The Return of the Native.” Current Anthropology Volume 44, Number 3, June 2003, AND the responses.
  • Tomson Highway - The Rez Sisters: A Play.
  • Michael Yellow Bird, “What we want to be called: Indigenous perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels.” American Indian Quarterly Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring, 1999), pp. 1-21
  • Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, Vol 1, No 1 (2012).
  • Shashi Tharoor MP, “Britain Does Owe Reparations.” []
  • Rajeev Bhargava, “How Should we Respond to the Cultural Injustices of Colonialism ?” in Jon Miller & Rahul Kumar (eds.), Reparations: Interdisciplinary Inquiries. Oxford University Press (2007).
  • Ta Nehesi Coates, “The case for reparations.” The Atlantic, June 2014.
  • George Steinmetz and Julia Hell , “The Visual Archive of Colonialism: Germany and Namibia,” Photo Essay. Public Culture, 18:1, 2006. This article introduces a fascinating story about the movement for the repatriation of skulls taken by the Germans for scientific study after the “first deliberate genocide of the twentieth century”.
  • David M. Anderson, “Mau Mau in the High Court and the ‘Lost’ British Empire Archives: Colonial Conspiracy or Bureaucratic Bungle?” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Volume 39, 2011 - Issue 5
  • Ruth Hall, et al, “Resistance, acquiescence or incorporation? An introduction to land grabbing and political reactions ‘from below’.” The Journal of Peasant Studies special issue on Land Grabbing, 2015 Vol. 42, Nos. 3–4, 467–488. [This article discusses the relevance of political reactions to land grabbing in light of social movements and critical agrarian studies. And other selected articles from this issue.
  • Ieuan Griffiths, “The Scramble for Africa: Inherited Political Boundaries.” The Geographical Journal, Vol. 152, No. 2(July 1986), pp. 204-216


  • Marcus Rediker et al, (eds.), Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World. University of California Press, 2007.
  • Achille Mbembe, “Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive.” []
  • Andre Beteille, “The Idea of Indigenous People.” Current Anthropology , vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 187-192, 1998. AND the following response, John Brown Childs and Guillermo Delgado, “On the Idea of the Indigenous.” Current Anthropology, Vol. 40, No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 211-212
  • David M. Anderson, “Guilty Secrets: Deceit, Denial, and the Discovery of Kenya’s ‘Migrated Archive’” (2015) History Workshop Journal, Issue 80. Focuses on the ongoing lawsuit brought by Kenya’s Mau Mau survivors against the British government for crimes against humanity
  • Mahmood Mamdani, “A Brief History of Genocide.” Transition, Issue 87 (Volume 10, Number 3), 2001. pp. 26-47
  • Moira Simpson, “Museums and restorative justice: heritage, repatriation and cultural education.” Museum International, Volume 61, Issue 1-2, pages 121–129, May 2009.
  • Adam Hochschild , King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin. 1999. On Leopold’s spectacular land grab of the late 19th early 20th centuries.
  • Eduardo Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America. Monthly Review, 1971.
  • The Price of Sugar is a 2007 Uncommon Productions film directed by Bill Haney about exploitation of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic involved with production of sugar, and the efforts of Spanish priest Father Christopher Hartley to ameliorate their situation. The documentary shows the poor working conditions in the sugar cane plantations, and political control exerted by the Vicini family to stifle efforts to change the situation. While the documentary highlights the efforts of Father Christopher Hartley to bring medicine, education, and human rights to Haitian workers, it also shows the widespread resentment of his actions held by Dominican people.