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Thematic Seminar: Race in World Politics


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.


In 1900, the African American Scholar WEB Du Bois stated that the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour line.’ In other words, Du Bois argued that ‘race’ was the dominant ordering mechanism of world politics. This course will explore how ‘race’ and empire have constituted – and continue to make – the world we live in. We will consider how racial thinking has developed in the past two centuries, and investigate the blunt and subtle ways in which it continues to inform the discourses and policies on issues ranging from Nuclear Weapons to Brexit. Through the writings of key thinkers such as Du Bois, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and bell hooks, we will examine the debates on intersectionality between race, gender and class.

This course will familiarise students with some of the key debates on race and encourage them to think about race in a multidisciplinary manner. The scholarly literature scanned during the course of these seminars and our discussions should help students to deepen their interest in race relations, world politics, and decolonizing International Studies. Through course assessments, students will also develop skills in independent research, writing and presentation.

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Class Participation 10%
Book presentation 20%
Weekly Summaries 20%
Final Research Essay (5,000 words) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.
Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2020 – 2021.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

Students are expected to go through the essential readings for each week and are encouraged to pursue other texts under the further reading heading. While there are no required textbooks, the following are some of the key texts:

  • Achebe, C. Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (New York: Anchor Books, 1988)

  • Ambedkar, B.R. The Annhiliation of Caste: The Annonated Critical Edition (New Delhi: Navayana, 2015)

  • Césaire, A., Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1955).

  • Davis, A., Women, Race and Class (New York: Vintage, 1983).

  • Du Bois, WEB, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Bentham, 1903)

  • Fanon, F., Black Skins White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 2008).

  • Frantz, F., The Wretched of the Earth, (New York: Grove Press, 2004).

  • Hall, S. Familiar Stranger: A Life Between two Islands (Duke University Press, 2017)

  • Pakenhem, Thomas, Scramble for Africa, , (Avon Books, 1992)

  • hooks, bell. Ain’t I a woman? Black Women and Feminism (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1981)


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 14 December 2020:

  1. On 14 December 2020 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
  2. Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
  3. Based on preferences indicated by 30 December 2020 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 20 January 2021.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.
  5. All students are required to enrol for their group in Brightspace to access all course information.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.


Dr. V. Thakur

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.
Please use your University email-address (uMail) when communicating with any person or department within Leiden University.

Student Affairs Office for BA International Studies


The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 11 June 2021.