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Elective: Censorship and Social Transformation


Admission requirements

This course is only available for second year students in the BA International Studies.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


When thinking about the media and representation of conflict nowadays, one cannot get around questions of censorship. Mentioning censorship in describing relations between the media and the state and discussing the dynamics of international circulation has become indispensable – but what exactly do we mean by this term? In a historical perspective, we will probably think of the notorious examples of centralized ideological control in regimes that attempted projects of social engineering such as former soviet and apartheid states. Yet even after the dissolution of authoritarian regimes, censorship appears to survive and thrive within transforming societies. On the other hand, also in democracies mechanisms of censoring appear to be involved once the sustained power relations and status quo are contested. In order to understand the more intricate processes of censorship in a variety of regimes today, historical and comparative approaches are particularly helpful. Taking a closer look at societies from three different continents and focusing on the past and present of censorship in Russia, Cuba and South Africa, this course aims to tackle the nexus of censorship and social transformation in these ‘transitional’ contexts and beyond.
The course proceeds from a broad understanding of censorship as involving not merely legal regulations, but specific patterns of speaking, listening and viewing tied in with the dynamics of power relations. Discussing examples of literature, film, visual art and the mass/new media, we will examine the many faces of censorship – its manifest and structural dimensions, censorship imposed by the state and by market forces, the entanglement of political and moral reasoning, and the ambiguous relations between censors, authors and critics.
The course will consist of three blocks focusing on cultural production in Russia, Cuba and South Africa respectively and providing general conceptual background for the study of censorship. In addition we will consider patterns of remembering the soviet and the apartheid in contemporary culture and the processes of censorship involved. Participants are encouraged to develop broader comparative perspectives relating the insights from the regions and countries in focus to practices of censorhsip in the regions they study. During the last sessions they will have an opportunity to present own research projects which will provide basis for the final essays.

Additionally, the students will work through W.C. Booth, G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The elective courses 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 interdisciplinary 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 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
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. 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 analyze 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.
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
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, seminar style discussion and supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 80 hours

  • Completion of short assignments: 46 hours

  • Researching and writing final paper: 130 hours

Assessment method

Weekly assignments, and a final paper of 4,000 words (excluding tables and bibliography).

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • MÜLLER, BEATE. „Censorship and Cultural Regulation: Mapping the Territory.“ Critical Studies. Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age. Ed. By Beate Müller. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2004, 1-31.

  • HOLQUIST, MICHAEL. “Corrupt Originals: The Paradox of Censorship.” PMLA Vol 109 No. 1 (Jan. 1994), 14-15.

  • TOLSTAYA, TATYANA. “The Perils of Utopia: The Russian Intelligentsia under Communism and Perestroyka.” Development and Change 27 (1996): 315-329.

  • YURCHAK, ALEXEY. “Suspending the Political: Late Soviet Artistic Experiments on the Margins of the State.” Poetics Today 29: 4 (Winter 2008), 713-733.

  • LITVINENKO, ANNA. “Online Public Sphere in Russia and Its Role in the Movement ‘For Fair Elections’.” Vlaams Marxistisch Tijdschrift 1 (2012): 130-134.

  • BECKER, WOLFGANG. Good Bye, Lenin!’ (Film)

  • GUTIÉRREZ, ALEA THOMAS. Fresa y Chocolate. (Film)

  • GUTIÉRREZ, ALEA THOMAS. Memorias del Subdesarrollo. (Film)

  • Diverse Cuban Short stories and blogs.

  • COETZEE, J.M. “The Work of the Censor: Censorship in South Africa.” Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996, 185-203.

  • VLADISLAVIC, IVAN. Propaganda by Monuments and Other Stories. Johannesburg: David Philip, 1996.

  • FRASER, NANCY. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” Social Text 25/26 (1990), 56-80.

  • MERRETT, CHRISTOPHER. “A Tale of Two Paradoxes: Media Censorship in South Africa, Pre-Liberation and Post-Apartheid.” Media Freedom and Human Rights 15: 1 & 2 (2001), 50-68.

  • DUBIN, STEVEN. “Shame and Disgrace: The Arts, their Publics and Would-be Censors.” Spearheading Debate: Culture Wars and Uneasy Truces. Cape Town: Jacana Media, 2013, 140-147, 152-156, 158-161, 174-187.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. K. Robbe, email


Not applicable.