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Postcolonial World


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

At least two 100-level electives.

Recommended course(s):



How can we make sense of the vast disparities in people’s experiences and life opportunities that exist in today’s world? How are these differences in opportunity patterned, and how did these patterns come to exist? Why is the globalised world experienced so differently?

This course introduces students to the field of postcolonial studies, which provides compelling answers to these questions. Drawing on history, anthropology, sociology, political theory, international law, psychology, and comparative literature, we delve into processes of European colonisation post-1600 and how they shaped interactions, mentalities, and ideas of authority both in the European metropoles and in the areas that came to be defined as colonies.

Within that arena, we focus our inquiry on countries such as the Netherlands and look carefully at the period from the late 19th century onwards, when defining aspects of colonial and postcolonial societies came into being. We probe the historical transformations, political imperatives, and cultural rationales that shaped the experience of colonialism and its aftermath, both in metropole and colony. The migrations that came with colonialism and its aftermath have led to highly diverse societies across regions. Taking this into account, we further explore how legacies of empire are inscribed and represented in contemporary public spaces. By doing so, we become more aware of, and are able to grapple with the residues and reckonings of colonialism today.

Course Objectives

By successfully completing this course, students should be able:

  1. To gain skills, as shown in the ability to:
  • Reflect critically on how legacies of empires and colonialism shape societies today,

  • Identify and interpret narratives out of representations of history in public spaces,

  • See the world from several perspectives, especially grasping how historical experiences that are different from one’s own can lead to different interpretations,

  • Apply concepts and theory related to the colonial and the postcolonial to contemporary debates; and

  1. To gain knowledge, as shown in the ability to:
  • Identify and engage with concepts and theory related to the colonial and postcolonial,

  • Explain how colonial histories shape opportunities for differently positioned people,

  • Think creatively and sensibly about how narratives of the past can be changed in ways that allow for a larger share of citizens to find themselves represented in them,

  • Account for how colonial legacies impact on capabilities for civic and political action to address societal challenges, and how these capabilities can be strengthened.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught interactively. In the first block, a lecture will be given in the first session of the week while the second session will be devoted primarily to class discussion. Every week, students will be expected to write a reflection about the readings, to be posted on the Wednesday. In class, you will be expected to participate actively based on your reading of the core texts while also drawing on your own prior experiences and insights. The classroom will be facilitated as a space for listening, reflecting, and building knowledge together in ways that signal respect for the various backgrounds each of us comes into this space from.

Early on in the first block, each student will pick a site that represents an aspect of a colonial past – whether through the naming of a street, square or neighbourhood, a statue, monument or building, or a museum or an exhibition. Doing further research into the person(s) or events represented at that site, you will write a paper or make a video on how that representation came to exist and how it can be interpreted. During the course we will also go for one or two excursions to sites in The Netherlands where representations of colonial pasts are on display, to explore how they are perceived by different actors with a stake in those histories.

In the second block, students will work in groups to explore how the postcolonial world manifests in particular locales and for particular people, focusing on situations in our regional neighbourhood. There is a range of situations and debates to choose from, and options will be discussed early this block. Students will submit a project proposal by Week 2; next, in a workshop you will present your project ideas for discussion with the rest of the class. During the following month or so, you will delve more deeply into the topic of your project, including by collecting data through observation, interviews, surveys, archival research and/or other relevant methods. To present your findings, you will jointly write a paper and make a video or a podcast, due in Week 8.

Assessment Method

Weekly reflections: 35%
Individual project: 30%
Group project: 35%

Reading list

The readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Ingrid Samset, email: