Postcolonial Reverb: Connecting the Dots, Investigating the Imperial Imagination

Home/ Postcolonial Reverb: Connecting the Dots, Investigating the Imperial Imagination
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA2104

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Anita E. Cherian

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

This course is speculative in its methods and purposes. It intends to subject juxtaposed texts to study, in order to allow oppositional meanings to emerge. It is interested in conjunctions, circulations, reverberations: biographic, literary, political, geographic. In terms of its sites of investigation, the course is quite specific. It uses as a provisional anchor, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610-1611) in order to return to the scenes and sites of slavery, capital, colonialism, power, insurrection, abjection. This text will be studied through the lenses and methodologies made available in the work of the Martiniquen poet, dramatist and theorist, Aimé Ferdinand Césaire (1913–2008).

To course is designed to firstly, create the conditions for intertextual and intercultural analysis;

second, to study texts and contexts which have received little exposure and attention in the Indian context; and third to examine the histories and politics of slavery, imperialism, capital, anti-colonial movements and postcolonial narratives from a geographic and cultural space distinct from the sub-continental.

Course Outcomes: On completion of the course, it is expected that the student will have:

  • Developed a familiarity with the histories and literatures produced under conditions of slavery and colonialism in the ‘Black’ Atlantic.
  • Developed a multicultural awareness of and sensitivity to issues of race and colonial history among students.
  • Developed forms of ethical reasoning among students through the investigation of the forms of rationality that allowed for the institution of slavery and imperialism.
  • Developed the critical abilities to consider the issues and conditions that produce qualities of leadership, especially in relation to the emergence of leaders from subaltern populations.
  • Enabled students to engage in self directed, research oriented projects.

Brief description of main modules: The course is structured in four modules. The first three will read closely, specific conjunctions of primary texts, constellated by theoretical and historical materials. Module 4 will comprise theoretical materials through which the concepts and ideas generated by discussions of the primary materials will be examined critically.

Module 1: ‘The Darkness of the Renaissance’

This introductory module is structured around William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest & Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest. These two texts will be read alongside Césaire’s ‘Discourse on Colonialism,’ Homi Bhabha’s ‘Of Mimicry and Men,’ Paul Gilroy’s ‘Black Atlantic,’ Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch and Walter Mignolo’s Darker Side of the Renaissance. (Weeks 1-4)

Module 2: ‘Anti Slavery, Anti Imperial Revolutions in the Atlantic’

This module will read Césaire’s Tragedy of King Cristophe, and Eugene O Neill’s The Emperor Jones alongside Ariella Azoulay’s ‘Revolution,’ Susan Buck-Morss’ Hegel, Haiti and Universal History and C.L.R. James’ Black Jacobins. (Weeks 5-7)

Module 3: ‘The impossibility of post-colonial nationhood’

This module will consider Césaire’s A Season in the Congo in the context of African anticolonial political/ aesthetic/identitarian movements. In particular it will consider the anticolonial movement in the Congo in relation to the tragic history of the Congolese revolutionary, Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961). The readings here will include selections from Frantz Fanon, Césaire, Leopold Senghor, Achille Mbembe, and Gary Wilder. (Weeks 8-12)

Module: ‘Theoretical Evaluations’

This module will evaluate all the texts studied in relation to anti-colonialism, theories of Negritude and Afro-centrism, the consolidation of neo-colonial formations, and the concept of the postcolony and postcolonial sovereignty. Readings will include Cedric Robinson, Fred Moten, Achille Mbembe and Souleymane Bachir Diagne. (Weeks 13-14)


Primary Texts

  • Césaire, Aimé. A Tempest. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: TCG Translations, 2002. (1969).
  • Shakespeare, William. The Tempest (1611).
  • Césaire, Aimé. The Tragedy of King Christophe (1963, 1970).
  • O’Neill, Eugene. The Emperor Jones (1920).
  • Césaire, Aimé.A Season in the Congo. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2010. (1965).
  • Césaire, Aimé. The Collected Poetry. Trans. Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
  • Supplementary/ Theoretical/ Historical Readings (Selections from the following)
  • Azoulay, Ariella ‘Revolution’ in Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon (2012)
  • Baucom, Ian. ‘Frantz Fanon’s Radio: Solidarity, Diaspora, and the Tactics of Listening.’ Contemporary Literature, Vol. XLll, no. 1 (2001): 15-49.
  • __________. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Bernal, Martin. The Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece — 1785-1985 (vol.1). Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 1987.
  • Bhabha, Homi K. ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,’ in The Location of Culture. London: Routledge,1994.
  • Buck-Morss, Susan. Hegel, Haiti and Universal History. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.
  • Césaire, Aimé. Fernand. Discourse on Colonialism (1972), ‘Poetry and Knowledge’ (1945), Memorandum on My Martinique.
  • Dash, J. Michael. ‘The Theatre of the Haitian Revolution and the Haitian Revolution as Theatre’. Small Axe. Vol. 18 (Sept. 2005): 16-23.
  • Dayan, Joan. ‘Paul Gilroy’s Slaves, Ships, and Routes: The Middle Passage as Metaphor.’ Research in African Literatures, Vol. 27, no. 4(Winter 1996): 7-14.
  • Diagne, Souleymane Bachir. African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude. (Trans. Chike Jeffers). Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2011.
  • Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.
  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Marmann. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1967.
  • ___________.A Dying Colonialism. Trans. Haakon Chevalier. New York: Grove, 1965.
  • Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2004.
  • Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Glissant, Edouard. The Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1997.
  • Hartman, Saidiya V. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • James, C.L. R. The Black Jacobins: Touissaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1963.
  • Joseph, May. ‘Aquatopia: Harmattan Theatre, Neoliberal Provisionality, and the Future of Water,’ in Lara D. Nielsen and Patricia Ybarra ed. Neoliberalism and Global Theatre: Performance Permutations. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  • Linebaugh, Peter & Marcus Rediker. The Many Headed Hydra:Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.
  • Mignolo, Walter D. The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.
  • Mbembe, Achille. ‘At the Edge of the World: Boundaries, Territoriality and Sovereignty’. Public Culture, Vol. 12, no1 (2000): 259–284
  • Moten, Fred. ‘Notes on Passage (The New International of Sovereign Feelings).’ Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (2014): 51-74
  • Nesbitt, Nick. ‘Troping Touissaint, Reading Revolution,’ in Research in African Literatures, Vol. 35, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 18-33.
  • Nixon, Rob. ‘Caribbean and African Appropriations of The Tempest’. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 13 (Spring 1987): 557-578.
  • Rabaka, Reiland. Africana Critical Theory Reconstructing the Black Radical Tradition, from W. E. B. Du Bois and C. L. R. James to Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral. New York: Lexington Books, 2009.
  • Robinson, Cedric. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. London: Zed Books, 1983.
  • Thornton, John K. “I am the Subject of the King of Congo”: African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution.” Journal of World History, Vol. 4, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 181-214.
  • Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.
  • Wilder, Gary. ‘Race, Reason, Impasse: Cesaire, Fanon and the Legacy of Emancipation,’ in Radical History Review, Issue 90(Fall 2004): 31-61.
  • ____________. Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization and the Future of the World. Durhan: Duke University Press, 2015.
  • Wolf, Eric. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.
  • Visual Materials
  • Julian, Isaac. Frantz Fanon: Black Skins: White Masks. Normal Films, 1996.
  • Peck, Raoul. Lumumba. Zeitgeist Films, 2000.
  • The Wooster Group.The Emperor Jones (performance recording)


  • Instructional design: Lecture and class room discussion
  • Special needs (facilities, requirements in terms of software, studio, lab, clinic, library, classroom/others instructional space; any other – please specify): No special needs. Require classroom space, laptop and projector.
  • Expertise in AUD faculty or outside: AUD faculty
  • Linkages with external agencies (e.g., with field-based organizations, hospital; any others): None

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments)

  • Class Participation: 20 % of grade
  • Module 1 Response Paper: 25% of grade
  • Presentation: 25% of grade
  • Final Term Paper: 30% of final grade computation