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Thematic Seminar: Decolonization and Global Governance


Admission requirements

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

Please note that passing a Thematic Seminar (10 EC) in the second year, second semester, is an entry requirement for starting your thesis in academic year 2024-2025. You need to have passed a minimum of 100 EC of year 1 and 2 of the International Studies programme as well in order to start your thesis.


What is the relationship between empire, institutions of global governance, and the struggle for decolonization across the 20th century? In this class, we will explore how states across the “Global South” variously appealed to, worked within, and worked around international organizations in order to win and exercise their political, economic, and cultural sovereignty during global struggles for independence. In the process, we will explore several themes about the relationship between imperial domination, international cooperation, and the struggle for postcolonial sovereignty. Moving chronologically through the 20th century, we will investigate how international organizations like the League of Nations and UN set benchmarks for sovereignty and validated certain species of sovereignty while undermining others. We’ll explore how international organizations helped globalize liberal capitalism, and how delegates from across the decolonizing world attempted to use the same organizations to retool or reform imperial legacies in the global economic system. And we will look at forms of solidarity and alternative visions of worldmaking forwarded by activists and leaders from the Global South, as they pursued more radical and redistributionist forms of self-determination.

This course will introduce students to long-standing themes and controversies in global politics, centering the legacy of empire within institutions of international cooperation, and the struggle for postcolonial sovereignty. By reading a wide range of scholarly sources, students will also gain an understanding of ongoing debates within academic scholarship on these themes, and develop the skills to research, write, and present original scholarship of their own.

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.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

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 20%
Project Proposal 10%
Narrative Outline 20%
Final Research Essay (+/- 5,000 words, excluding tables and bibliography) 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 2023 – 2024.

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:

  • Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford UP, 2007)

  • Disha Karnad Jani, “The League Against Imperialism, National Liberation, and the Economic Question,” Journal of Global History (2022)

  • Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: the League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford UP, 2015)

  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Negro and the League of Nations” (1921)

  • Megan Donaldson, “The League of Nations, Ethiopia, and the Making of States,” Humanity (2020)

  • Eva-Maria Muschik, Building States: the United Nations, Development, and Decolonization, 1945-1965 (Columbia UP, 2022)

  • Adom Getachew, Worldmaking After Empire: the Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton University Press, 2019)

  • Steven L.B. Jensen, The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values (Cambridge UP, 2016)

  • Christy Thornton, Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy (UC Press, 2021)

  • Bonny Ibhawoh, Imperialism and Human Rights: Colonial Discourses of Rights and Liberties in African History (2007)

  • Steven L.B. Jensen, The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values

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.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 15 December 2023:

  1. On 15 December 2023 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 8 January 2024 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 22 January 2024.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.

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



The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 7 June 2024.