PHI 425 Post-colonialism and Philosophy Spring 05



Course Syllabus

Linda Martín Alcoff
Departments of Philosophy and Women’s Studies
Office: 523 Hall of Languages
Phone: 443-2519, 443-0283
Office Hours: Wednesdays 11:00 - 12:30 and by appointment

Course Description:
For more than 500 years the world has been wracked by colonialism, colonizing armies, and anti-colonial wars of resistance. Colonialism has essentially been a flow of resources from weaker to stronger countries, enforced by military violence. Colonialist countries generally did not portray themselves as oppressors but as more advanced civilizations who could govern the colonized peoples (and make use of their resources) better than they could themselves.
The rise of colonialism has been occurring simultaneous to the development of the European Enlightenment and the flowering of Western philosophy. Western philosophy sometimes supported colonialism, and sometimes criticized it, but it was also affected by it in ways that are just now coming to light.
The project of post-colonialism is to decolonize the fields of culture, art, empirical inquiry, and theory from the influence of the colonial world-view. In other words, it involves tracing the link between colonialisms and all of the forms of cultural expression and knowledge that emerged from the colonial powers. Philosophers working in post-colonial studies have paid particular attention to concepts like rationality, the Great Chain of Being, humanism, universalism, freedom and race for their connections to colonialism as well as for their potential usefulness to anti-colonial efforts. This work requires assessing the theories of western philosophy in their historical context and in light of our increasing awareness of colonialism’s effect on the content of philosophical thinking.
This course will introduce students to some of the key works that argue for a link between western philosophy and colonialism, written by anti-colonialist theorists trained in western philosophy, such as Nkrumah and Dussel. We will explore the effects of colonialism on knowledge about “the other,” on the subjectivity of the colonized, and on the philosophy of history and of culture. We will also look at the development of postcolonial studies in relation to neo-colonialism and post-structuralism, and we will look at the debates over forms of resistance.

Course Requirements:

(1) Attendance is required, and lateness beyond ten minutes will count as an absence. Students who miss no more than 3 classes for whatever reason during the semester will gain 1/3 letter grade at the end, for example, moving from a B- to a B or from a B+ to an A-. The reason for your absence will not affect this, so please do not present me with reasons or signed notes.

(2) Class Participation: participating in class discussion with informed questions and comments based on the required reading is essential to this course. (10%)

(3) There will be two in-class exams: one on February 16 and one on March 30. These will be based on the reading assignments. (50%)

(4) Final paper: based on a topic relating to the course materials and your own particular interests and concerns. All topics need to be cleared with me no later than April 6. Note that I do not accept papers by email. These papers must be 8-10 pages typed double-spaced. (40%)

Books: The following books are available at the Orange Bookstore.

1. Consciencism, by Kwame Nkrumah.

2. Black Skin/White Masks by Frantz Fanon.

3. English is Broken Here by Coco Fusco.

4. Colonialism/Postcolonialism by Ania Loomba

5. Postmodernism Debate in Latin America edited by John Beverley, Michael Aronna, Jose Oviedo.

6. There is also required a Course Reader available at the Campus Copy Center at Marshall Square Mall. Ask for Reader # 20051-1059 or look it up under “Alcoff.”

Course Outline

January 19: Introduction to the course

Jan. 24, 26: Eurocentrism:

Jean-Paul Sartre, Preface to

The Wretched of the Earth


Frantz Fanon “Concerning Violence” (Handout)

Thomas Macauley “Minute on Indian Education” (CR)

Peter Hulme “Columbus and the Cannibals” (CR)

Enrique Dussel,

The Invention of the Americas

Chap. 1 (CR)

Jan 31, Feb. 2: Modernity and colonialism:

Enrique Dussel,

The Invention of the Americas


Feb. 7, 9: Philosophy and colonialism


Feb. 14: “The Couple in the Cage” video and discussion

Coco Fusco,


Feb. 21, 23: Postcolonialism and knowledge

Ania Loomba,

Colonialism, Postcolonialism

Introduction and pp. 103

Feb. 28, March 2: Orientalism

Edward Said


selections (CR)

March 7, 9: Colonialism and Identity

Loomba, pp, 104-183


March 21, 23, 28: Identity and Subjectivity


Black Skin/ White Masks


April 4, 6: Resistance

Loomba pp. 184-258

April 11, 13, 18: Postcolonialism and Postmodernity
The Postmodernism Debate

Introduction and essays by Albo, Calderon, Hopenhayn, Larsen, L.A. Subaltern Studies Group, Olea, Quijano, Richard, Zapatistas

No Class April 20

April 25, 27: Resistance through Art


May 2: Conclusion