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Unit information: Theorizing Violence: Colonial Encounters and Anticolonial Reactions in 2020/21

Unit name Theorizing Violence: Colonial Encounters and Anticolonial Reactions
Unit code MODLM0025
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Ruth Bush
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This course examines theoretical and empirical critiques of violence across several cultural and geographic contexts, and from a wide range of disciplines, including literary studies, history, philosophy, and political theory.

We will engage classic European texts on the philosophy of violence as well as reactions to colonial violence across the colonized world. We will also revisit political theories of violence in order to examine their relevance to understanding violence in the modern and contemporary periods. Comparing the experience of violence across a wide variety of colonial and colonizing contexts, this course tests the limits of the modern state’s monopoly on violence, while suggesting how literature and cultural artefacts generate resistance to state coercion.

Students will be encouraged to reflect critically on the range of texts pertaining to the history and theory of violence, while also engaging in cross-cultural comparison and practicing interdisciplinary methodologies. The comparative and interdisciplinary approach of this course will train students in the methodologies most relevant to the MA in Comparative Cultures in the School of Modern Languages, but the course content will be of relevance to students in other MA programmes.

Intended learning outcomes

1) Students will develop scholarly perspectives on a wide range of reflections on violence and will become able to situate these works within a broader intellectual tradition

2) Students will develop a sophisticated cross-cultural understanding of violence and of global imperial history from multiples points of view

3) Students will develop the ability to apply key insights from critical theory to the contemporary moment

4) Students will refine their abilities in comparative textual analysis

5) Students will acquire a sophisticated understanding of global intellectual history and political theory

6) Students will develop the tools to conduct further research into the theory of violence across world cultures

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered online through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

3,000 word coursework essay (60%), testing ILOs 1-6

One 2,000 word commentary assignment involving discussion of two or more course readings (40%), testing ILOs 1-6.

Reading and References

Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970)

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, Translated by. Joan Pinkham, (New York: Monthly Review Press , 2000)
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. Preface by Jean-Paul Sartre. Translated by Constance Farrington. (New York, Grove Press, 1961)

Fabian Klose, Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria, (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, 2013)
Max Weber, Weber: Political Writings, eds. Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)