Postcolonial Theory and Its Discontents
National Chiao Tung University
Tuesdays 16:40 – 19:40
Instructor: Li-Chun Hsiao
Office: FR 306
Office hours: Tuesdays 1:30 – 3:30 PM
The expansion, together with the eventual ascent, of postcolonial studies to a
paradigmatic status on contemporary intellectual scene in recent decades doesn‟t seem to
help clarify many of the fundamental questions about the field. There have been
theoretical debates over the parameters, definition(s), methodologies or epistemological
grounds, speaking positions, the locality, etc. of the postcolonial. This course will, then,
situate postcolonial studies or, more specifically, postcolonial theory, in a series of
critical debates, a framework of theoretical engagements not limited to literary studies,
but across the humanities.
The goal of our graduate seminar is a fairly modest one: Rather than offering a final,
concluding note on the unsettled questions raised throughout the short (pre)history of the
field, it would be content with grasping what are at stake in the debates, the contour and
genealogy of the contested issues. We‟ll begin with Bart Moore-Gilbert‟s and Ania
Loomba‟s lucid introductions to the background of the postcolonial “controversies” as
well as the basic concepts and keywords of postcolonial studies, before tackling the
difficult writings of Bhabha, Said, and Spivak and sorting through the poststructuralist
undercurrents in what we generally conceive as postcolonial theory. The seminar will
then move on to address the challenges posed by Marxists and other critics of
postcolonial theory by examining the seminal special issue of the journal Social Text
31/32 (1992). Toward the end of the semester, we‟ll be reviewing the trajectories of our
discussions by drawing on Graham Huggan‟s studies (and parts of Moore-Gilbert‟s and
Loomba‟s). Students will be encouraged to focus on one of the often entangled issues
(such as hybridity, diaspora, the postcolonial moment, decolonization, etc.) raised in our
readings while working toward their seminar papers.
The following is a projected course schedule (please see the attached list of required
texts for detailed information of the works by listed authors):
I. Introducing the Postcolonial Discontents:
Week 1: Introduction to the course (a handout of keywords will be prepared for in-class
Week 2: Loomba, “Introduction”; Moore-Gilbert, Chapter 1
Week 3: Selections from The Empire Writes Back and Young Week 4: Selections from Loomba and Moore-Gilbert
II. The Poststructuralist Affair:
Week 5: Selection from Said, Orientalism Week 6: Continued readings from Orientalism; Said, “Orientalism Reconsidered”
Week 7: Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Week 8: Selections from Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason and The Spivak
Week 9: Selections from Bhabha, Location of Culture Week 10: Continued readings from Bhabha; selections from Fanon
III. The Marxist Challenge and Other Critiques:
Week 11: Selections from Ahmad, In Theory; Appiah; Parry Week 12: Introduction to the special issue, Social Text 31/32 (1992); MacClintock;
Week 13: Ahmad, “The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality”; Dirlik; Hall; Jameson
Week 14: Selections from Fanon and Lazarus.
IV. Toward a Postcolonial Contribution:
Week 15: Selections from Huggan
Week 16: Continued readings from Huggan; presentations of works in progress or
proposals of seminar papers (15 minutes)
Week 17: Presentations of works in progress or proposals of seminar papers
Week 18: Due day of the final version of your seminar paper
* Please note that the course schedule and readings are subject to change, pending on
student needs, the progress of our seminar, or unforeseen circumstances.
Weekly written response: Each student is supposed to turn in a written response (at least
one full, double-spaced page) to the assigned readings every time we meet. The success
of our graduate seminar depends in part on the active participation of students. Based on
your responses prepared beforehand, our in-class discussions will more likely be well
thought-out and quality exchanges of ideas. Responses are due at the very beginning of
each class. Late versions of them are not acceptable.
Report and presentation: Every student is expected to do an oral report (10-15 minutes)
on one of the readings. The report should consist of more detailed information, in both
the forms of summaries and thoughtful responses, than your weekly response. We‟ll
determine who will be in charge of which reading in the first couple of weeks. Toward
the end of the semester, each participant is supposed to present his/her paper proposal or
work in progress to the class.
Attendance: Participation begins with attendance. Please be advised that you are
supposed to come to each class unless you are forced to miss it in situations such as an
emergency. Since it‟s unlikely that one would encounter four emergencies during the
course of a semester, anyone who has four absences or more will automatically fail
Grading: Your final grade will be calculated according to the following breakdown:
Weekly responses 20%
Report and presentation 15%
Seminar paper 50%
List of required texts
Ahmad, Aijaz. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London: Verso, 1992. ---. “The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality.” Race & Class. 36.3 (1995): 1-20. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?”
Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. Ed. Padmini Mongia. London:
Arnold, 1996. 55-71.
Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. London:
Bhabha, Homi K. “DissemiNation” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London:
Routledge, 1990. 291-322.
---. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
Dirlik, Arif. “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global
Capitalism.” Critical Inquiry 20 (Winter 1994): 328-56.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Mask. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York:
Grove Press, 1967.
---. The Wretched of the Earth. Preface by Jean-Paul Sartre. Trans. Constance Farrington.
New York: Grove Press, 1963.
Hall, Stuart. “When Was „the Post-colonial‟?: Thinking at the Limit.” The Post-colonial
Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons. Ed. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti.
London: Routledge, 1996. 242-59.
Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge,
Jameson, Frederic. “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.”
Social Text 15 (Fall 1986): 65-88.
Lazarus, Neil, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2004.
Loomba, Ania. Colonialism / Postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 1998.
MacClintock, Anne. “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term „Postcolonialism‟.”
Social Text 31/32 (1992): 84-98.
Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics. London: Verso,
Parry, Benita. “Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse.” Oxford Literary
Review 9 (1987): 27-58.
Prakash, Gyan. “Postcolonial Criticism and Indian Historiography.” Social Text 31/32
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979.
---. “Orientalism Reconsidered.” Cultural Critique 1 (1985): 89-107.
Shohat, Ella. “Notes on the „Post-Colonial.” Social Text 31/32 (1992): 99-113.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and the
Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: U of
Illinois P, 1988. 271-313.
---. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1999.
---. The Spivak Reader. Ed. Landry, Donna and Gerald MacLean. New York: Routledge,
Young, Robert J. C. White Mythologies: Writing History and the West. London: