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Decolonising History/Histories of Decolonisation


Module description

How do we connect histories of decolonisation to conversations about decolonising the curriculum? In this module we explore this question by taking a critical approach to practices of history-making. First, we look at the emergence of critical theory around the breakdown of colonial and imperial regimes. Here, we consider both how various thinkers interpreted the past and envisioned new futures for a world without empires. We then place these emergent frameworks in dialogue with histories of decolonisation, focusing specifically on how social and political structures of colonial empires broke down (or were otherwise reconstituted) during the post-Second World War period. We will explore connections in and beyond Africa through Mediterranean, Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.

In the second half of the module, we focus on the methods of historical practice. Here, we question how historians might take the questions raised by, and in histories of, decolonisation and apply them to our own practices. We consider more recent trends in thinking about race, empire and subjectivity. We then look at how intimate spaces and times embody and resist the afterlives of empire. In the final weeks we explore several themes that aim to engender a methodology beyond the module. We ask: what sources might inform a decolonised historical practice? Finally, we consider ongoing collaborations and collectives whose goal is to change the futures of history.

Indicative syllabus

  • An emergent decolonial consciousness
  • Temporalities and antecedents: eighteenth-century Atlantic revolutions and the ‘Wilsonian Moment’
  • Ending empire 1: processes, events, frameworks
  • Ending empire 2: violence of decolonisation (Algerian War and Mau Mau)
  • Rethinking geographies 1: the Black Mediterranean
  • Rethinking geographies 2: hubs of decolonisation: Cairo, Paris, Lisbon, Lusaka, London
  • Race, empire and subjectivity
  • Intimate spaces, intimate times: embodied experiences and imperial afterlives
  • Migrants, immigrants/decolonising economies
  • Researching and remembering decolonisation

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand, and be familiar with, historiographies of decolonisation as historical phenomena, with special reference to key instances and case studies
  • be aware of key differences in decolonial processes unique to geographical and historical conjunctures
  • be aware of the emergence of critical thinking about empire and decolonisation at the end of empire and the subsequent intellectual and ideological influences of decolonial thought, i.e. trace the genealogies of post-colonialism, decolonialism and the current ‘decolonise the curriculum’ movement
  • be able to situate histories of decolonisation as process and ideas within transnational and global frameworks
  • be able to interpret and incorporate primary sources relevant to decolonisation as process and decolonisation of knowledge/history.