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Postcolonial World


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Completion of any two 100-level LUC elective courses.


We are living in a world which has been shaped by histories of slavery and colonialism. These histories have contributed to establish certain behavioural patterns that keep shaping many people’s lives. This course allows students to learn about these histories and explore how we can go beyond the suffering caused by these histories and imagine the world anew.

The field of postcolonial studies offers a wealth of insights for making sense of various forms of inequality, exploitation, and conviviality among humans and other living beings today. We will be studying works in disciplines such as history, anthropology, sociology, political science, and psychology to delve into how colonial empires were built and how they shaped interactions and mentalities, both in the metropoles in Europe and the areas that came to be defined as colonies.

Within that arena, we will focus our inquiry on countries such as the Netherlands and look at the period from the late 19th century onwards, when defining aspects of colonial and postcolonial societies came into being. We will probe the historical transformations, political imperatives, and cultural rationales that shaped the experience of colonialism and its aftermath. We will further examine how legacies of slavery and colonial empires are represented in public spaces here in Europe today. The overall purpose is to equip students with skills and knowledge to grapple with the contemporary residues and reckonings of colonialism.

Course Objectives

By successfully completing this course, students should be able:

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

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 action to address societal challenges, and how these capabilities can be strengthened.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 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 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 in ways that signal respect for the backgrounds each of us comes into this space from.

Early 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, a museum, or an exhibition. Doing further research into the person(s) or events represented there, you will write a paper or make a video or website 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.

In the second block, students will work in groups to explore how the postcolonial world manifests, focusing on situations in our regional neighbourhood. Students will submit a project proposal and subsequently 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 make a video or podcast, and write an account of the methodology you used accompanied by a bibliography.

Assessment Method

  • 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,