Module Details

SC920-7-AU-CO: Colonialism, Cultural Diversity And Human Rights

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Year: 2017/18
Department: Sociology
Essex credit: 20
ECTS credit: 10
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Professor Colin Samson
Teaching Staff: Professor Colin Samson
Contact details: Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

How is past and ongoing colonialism related to human rights problems? This is the major question posed by this module. In it, we will survey a range of social, political and economic processes that have a bearing on the contemporary human rights debates around the world. It assumes that what we today call human rights violations can only be understood in historical, political and social contexts, and that these are heavily bound up with cultural domination. In the 10 weeks, we will examine how colonial occupation, the imposition of capitalism and industrialism and assertions of state sovereignty have attempted to undermined local uniqueness and cultural distinctiveness. We will tackle these questions by looking at thinkers such as Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Michael Taussig. These will be combined with discussions of specific international situations such as the Algerian anticolonial revolution, the creation of refugees, walls and borders in Europe and Palestine, resource extraction in South America, the race for remaining fossil fuels in the Far North of Canada, the forced removal of Aboriginal children in Australia, and the continuing 'War on Terror.'

As well as seminars, we will also have separate programme of film screenings of significant feature films and documentaries such as 'The Battle of Algiers,' on the Algerian uprising against French colonialism, Çoncerning Violence’, which brings together Fanon and African decolonisation, 'Rabbit Proof Fence' on the Australian Aborigine stolen generations, 'Route 181' on the Israel-Palestine border, and ‘Standard Operating Procedure' on the war on terror. These will be used to add visual and aesthetic dimensions to our understandings of contemporary conflicts over rights around the world.

Learning and Teaching Methods


100 per cent Coursework Mark

Other information

Film screenings include:
'Battle of Algiers' about the Algerian resistance
'Burden of Dreams' the account of film director, Werner Herzog's Amazonian adventure
'Hannah' about the life of Hannah Arendt and her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial
'Route 181' a road documentary on the Israel Palestine 'green line
'Rabbit Proof Fence' on the Australian Aborigine stolen generations
'Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner' on looking at the world as Inuit
'Standard Operating Procedure' on the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison


  • Aime Cesaire, (1955), Discourse on Colonialism
  • Frantz Fanon, (1965) , A Dying Colonialism
  • Marnia Lazreg, (2007), Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad
  • Michael Taussig,(1987), Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing,
  • Hannah Arendt, (1968), The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Nur Masalha, (2012), The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory
  • Hugh Brody, (2001), The Other Side of Eden: Hunter-gatherers, farmers and the shaping of the world
  • Sven Lindqvist, (2007), Terra Nullius: A Journey Through No One's Land
  • Mark Danner, (2005),Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror

Further information