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Postcolonial Representations




Admissions requirements



Questions of representation have pertained to the struggles for emancipation and agency in different parts of the world, at least since the French revolution. Even being interrogated in postcolonial critiques of Reason, representation remains a central, though in no way unambiguous, concept. Gayatri Spivak has perhaps most poignantly identified the politics involved in its double meaning: representing as ‘speaking for’ (others) and the potential violence of this act is implicated in re-presenting as ‘portraying’. It is this nexus of political and aesthetic practices, as well as related ethical questions that will be at the core of our discussions.

The course will focus on a range of aesthetic forms and practices, including literary texts, visual art, theatre and film, that raise questions regarding the politics of representation. How can marginalised people and subjectivities be represented without distorting their own perspectives? What are the limits of self-representation? How do colonial regimes impede one’s agency and what strategies of breaking these silences can art provide? How are aesthetic forms and genres implicated in colonial practices, and how do postcolonial representations appropriate and re-write them?

The readings and discussions will be organised around some of the key categories of cultural analysis – memory, place and embodiment - and their theorisations in postcolonial studies. Every week we will concentrate on a novel or short stories as well as examples of art, film and performance, all dealing with a particular theme. In analysing these we will be engaging with the interfaces of textual and visual representations and the expressive possibilities of different forms. The examples will include some ‘classics’ such as Toni Morrison’s novel or artworks by William Kentridge as well as pieces of less renowned and more ‘local’ authors.

Week 1: Postcolonial practices of re-writing
Week 2: Postcolonial trauma and embodiment
Week 3: Postcolonial nations and difference
Week 4: Postcolonial memory
Week 5: Postcolonial locations
Week 6: Postcolonial (trans)migrations and diaspora
Week 7: Peer-reviewing and wrap-up

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • acquire a good understanding of central concepts and categories of postcolonial theory and be able to implement them in their own analysis;

  • develop skills of analyzing literary and visual representations;

  • demonstrate the ways in which postcolonial aesthetic practices impact social identities and discourses;

  • reflect on the contribution of postcolonial theory to the study of social and cultural practices in the globalising world;

  • enhance their skills of critical reading, oral presentation and analytical writing.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Classes will be a combination of short lectures and seminar discussions, with students examining the required texts and images by applying suggested theoretical approaches. A thorough engagement with the readings, a thoughtful manner of presenting and discussing one’s ideas in class, as well as respect for differences of opinion are crucial for the optimal unfolding of the course. For some of the sessions, students are expected to research for materials related to given topics and bring them into class discussion.

In addition to an oral presentation engaging with a theoretical text and explaining relevant concept(s), each student will write two short responses (webposts) - one to a (literary) text, the other to an artwork or performance. At the end of week 3 students submit short proposals for the final paper. At the end of week 5, a draft of the final paper is due, which will be peer-reviewed and discussed in small groups at the beginning of week 7.


  • In-class participation, 15%, ongoing and week 7;

  • Two webposts and prepared discussion of webposts by other participants, 20%, weeks 2-6;

  • Group presentation, 15%, weeks 2-6;

  • Essay proposal (300 words) and draft (1200 words), not graded but mandatory (late submissions not accepted), week 6;

  • Peer review of the draft, 10%, week 7;

  • Final research essay (2500-3000 words), 40%, week 8.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved

  • Women Righting: Afro-Brazilian Women's Short Fiction, ed. by Miriam Alvares and Maria Helena Lima

  • Veronique Tadjo, The Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda

  • Selected short stories from Zoë Wicomb’s You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town and The One that Got Away

  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

In addition, students will watch several documentaries, read a short theatre play and reflect on some works of visual art.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ksenia Robbe