Studies in Post-Colonialism: North America

The field of postcolonial studies critically examines the historical and ongoing entanglements of European nations and the societies/nations that they colonized in the modern era. Emerging in the 1970s and 80s with the publication of such texts as Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and the edited collection The Empire Writes Back (1989), the field attends to the cultural, political, epistemological, and economic impact of colonization on both the colonized and the colonizers. It also considers strategies of resistance to colonial control, the possibilities and challenges of decolonization, and the emergence of new forms of imperialism in the former colonies. Many of the questions and ideas at the centre of postcolonial inquiry have been predominantly shaped by an emphasis on the histories, concerns, and experiences of non-settler nations (e.g. India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Sri Lanka).

This course, then, offers a “slantwise” approach to the field of post-colonial studies by taking settler colonialism as its point of departure. We approach the study of colonialisms by attending to the histories of encounter that have shaped the post-1492 Atlantic world; the raced, gendered and sexualized “conquests” that underwrite Canada and the U.S. as settler nations; and the ongoing decolonizing and social justice projects of Indigenous peoples and people of colour in the Americas. With an emphasis on close reading and historicizing skills, this course asks students to “unmap” the spaces in which we’re living, studying, and working—and, in so doing, to begin to envision more just futures on this land.

I always play music at the beginning of my lectures. Here’s another of my favourites for this class: