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Archives, Heritage, and Postcolonial Studies


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


This Literature Seminar is part of the new MA sub-specialization ‘Heritage and Postcolonial studies’. It offers students the unique opportunity of a training in critical theorizing on, and approaches towards the politics and practices of heritage formation, archives, and academic knowledge production, in colonial and postcolonial situations, beyond – and including – notions and problems of ‘the’ (colonial) archive. Insights from this Literature Seminar are relevant for students interested in the study of postcolonial history through archives and heritage and those who wish to train as experts in the field of archival or heritage politics.

In this Literature Seminar we will study theory and debates on the politics and histories of heritage formation and archiving, as in relation to the societies or associations amongst which they are formed, and with special attention to their colonial and postcolonial dimensions.

We start from the premise that the history of (post-)colonial heritage formation and archiving as an essentially political process. A focus on the mechanisms of exchange in that history is crucial to understand these dynamics. In that framework, in the Literature Seminar we will zoom in on the relationship between heritage formation and civilian’s associations, institutions, and the archives left behind, in order to gain insight into the multiple hierarchies of knowledge, and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, generated by archival and heritage formation at multiple locations, within and beyond the frameworks of (post-)colonial state formation. In that same framework, we will also focus on the recently reviving debates on how to decolonize heritage and archives, and on the restitution or so-called repatriation of heritage and archives.

During the seminar you will get familiarized:

  • with theorizing on the limits and power of heritage (including archives and museums) in informing us on colonial and postcolonial histories, the frames of seeing and not seeing that govern them, the difficulties of the histories we tell each other on the base of such heritage;

  • with the recent debates about how to manage or study heritage formation in postcolonial times

  • and with debates on how to ‘unpack’ or decolonize heritage (including museums and archives), i.e. make these accessible and open up for inclusive and transnational historical research, regarding the knowledge production, and knowledge exchange in colonial and postcolonial history.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  2. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  3. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  5. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940).
    -in the subtrack Postcolonial and Heritage Studies: the history and politics of cultural knowledge production and heritage formation (including archives) in colonial and postcolonial situations, at local, transnational and global levels; insight into processes of cultural decolonization, exploring the nature, legacies and (dis-)connections of colonial power structures in present-day societies, regarding culture, heritage politics, Orientalism, museums, collecting, et cetera. Understanding heritage in the broadest sense – including archives, museums, historical sites, objects, sites of memory, rituals – as the prism to study these problems.

  2. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to work with a broad and mobile notion of knowledge, archives and heritage;

  2. The ability to analyse, compare and relate forms of knowledge, and processes of heritage formation including archives at multiple locations;

  3. The ability to recognize, question, understand the role of multiple power relations and changing hierarchies, in knowledge production, and in the makings and uses of sites of heritage including archives.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written essay
    measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10 (ResMA also: 7)

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 1-4 (ResMA also: 5)

  • Weekly written assignments
    measured learning objectives: 1-2, 4 (ResMA also: 5)


  • Written essay(s): 40%

  • Oral presentation: 30%

  • Weekly written assignments: 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Requisite reading, ca. 90-120 pages of literature every week, available at Leiden University Library. Some literature can be downloaded open access in the Library; other will be made available on reserved bookshelves at Leiden University, to be copied by students themselves.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.