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Thematic Seminar: Censorship: Social Transformation, Manufactured Consent, and Free Speech


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
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?

From a political perspective, this course interrogates the different forms which censorship can take: from authoritarian regimes to transforming societies to ‘established’ neoliberal societies and democracies to contested democracies in decolonial contexts. In order to understand the more intricate processes of censorship in such a variety of regimes, this course adopts a comparative regional perspective, taking a closer look at societies from three different continents and focusing on the past and present of censorship.

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 literature, film, visual art, the mass/new media, critical scholarship, and popular debates online, 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.

Along with providing a general conceptual background for the study of censorship, the course concentrates on practices of cultural regulation in Russia (and other countries of the former Soviet Union), North America (the United States and Canada), and South(ern) Africa. Participants are encouraged to develop broader comparative perspectives relating the insights from the regions and countries in focus to practices of censorship in the regions they study. During the last sessions they have an opportunity to present their own research projects which will provide the 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 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 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. 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 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.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction


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

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending seminars (2 hours per week x 12): 24 hours

  • Reading literature on a weekly basis: 70 hours

  • Preparing short written assignments: 36 hours

  • Preparing presentations: 30 hours

  • Writing the final research essay: 120 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
In-class participation 15%
Short essays 20%
Oral presentation 15%
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 have been active participants in class and submitted the Final Essay on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the Final Essay.
In case of resubmission of the Final Essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Essay.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2018 – 2019.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for the seminars. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on the Blackboard before the start of the course.

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.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Thematic Seminars is mandatory.

  • The Thematic Seminars make use of a waiting list for the enrolment in uSis. If you are on the waiting list for a Thematic Seminar, this does not guarantee you a spot in this Seminar.

  • Enrolment in only one Seminar is allowed. Students are more than welcome to remain on one or more waiting lists, as well as an actual enrolment.

  • If a Thematic Seminar and its corresponding waiting list is no longer available for enrolment in uSis, this means it is full. Do not try to obtain a spot through other means.

  • If you are unsure of your enrolment status for a Thematic Seminar, please contact the BAIS Administration Department.

  • General information about uSis is available here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. K. Robbe Dr. H.G.D. Williams

When contacting your lecturer, please include your full name, student number, and course title.


The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 7 June 2019.