AMST 407
Colonialism and Critical Theory Spring 2023
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

French philosopher Michel Foucault argued that “racism first develops with colonization, or in other words, with colonizing genocide.” Many prominent philosophers have developed intellectual tools that can help us better understand the ongoing colonialisms that impact our world. At the same time, many of these same theorists–Foucault included–are criticized for failing to pay adequate attention to the colonialism that shaped their historical moments. Taking this paradox as our jumping-off point, this course will examine prominent philosophical and theoretical texts and assess their utility for understanding processes of colonialism, imperialism, and militarism. We will also explore how the interventions of Postcolonial Theory and Critical Indigenous Theory highlight gaps in prominent theories of political-economy, ideology, biopower, race, gender, sexuality, and more. How do ideas like orientalism, settler-colonialism, sovereignty, or decolonization challenge the traditional “canon” of critical theory? How do intellectual ideas evolve over time, and how can we use these tools to make sense of a complex world too-often organized around fundamental inequalities? In our class meetings students will develop the reading and discussion practices necessary to parse dense theoretical texts, and practice deploying theoretical concepts to better understand complex philosophical, ethical, and political questions.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3977
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Assignments will include participatory discussion, weekly responses to assigned readings, a midterm essay exam, and a final paper.
Prerequisites: Introductory course in American Studies, History, Native and Indigenous Studies, English, or Philosophy; or some prior coursework on colonialism, postcolonial theory, or critical theory
Enrollment Preferences: AMST senior major, but anyone with upper-level humanities training welcome
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: This course will develop student writing skills through short reading-response papers and smaller "low stakes" writing assignments, combined with a semester-long project that will break the research and writing process into manageable components, including revision and peer review.
DPE Notes: This course explores the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, and other social structures often organized around inequality. Students will develop tools to analyze how power shapes the differences produced by colonialism and similar historical processes.
Attributes: AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
AMST 400-level Senior Seminars

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