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Social Theory, Postcolonialism and Global History (Gurminder Bhambra)

Seminar Leader: Gurminder K. Bhambra, R3.14

The worlds we currently inhabit, just like the worlds that have been inhabited in the past, are the products of historical flows of people, goods, and ideas that intersect and transcend particular localities. Cultural forms and social practices are interconnected and more importantly, I shall suggest, are constituted in those interconnections. Yet our understandings of the world are rarely posited in these terms. Indeed, the sense of living in a common world is increasingly lost in discussions about globalisation as a significant feature of the late modern world; as if the world was not always already global, but only in the process of becoming global.

In this session we examine this understanding of the world as ‘becoming global’ and address the implications of different understandings of the global for the way in which we approach ‘global history’.

For discussion

You are required to read at least two of the texts below and come prepared to discuss the following questions.

1. How global is global history?

2. Where is the global? How is the global constituted?

3. Is it necessary to read a global history ‘backwards’?

4. What are the implications of the postcolonial critique for understandings of global history?

5. Are there any lessons that Said still has for us in thinking about writing / studying global history?


Beck, Ulrich 2005. ‘The Cosmopolitan Perspective: Sociology of the Second Age of Modernity’, British Journal of Sociology, 51 (1): 79-106. Available online.

Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2007. 'Modernity, Colonialism and Postcolonial Critique' in G. K. Bhambra, Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination. Palgrave: Basingstoke

Bonnett, Alastair 2005. ‘Occidentalism and Plural Modernities: Or How Fukuzawa and Tagore Invented the West’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23 (4): 505-25

Buck-Morss, Susan 2000. ‘Hegel and Haiti’, Critical Inquiry, 26: 821-865 (Available online through j-stor)

Said, Edward W. 1995 [1978]. Orientalism. London: Penguin. Introduction, Chapter One and Afterword

Said, Edward W. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus. Introduction and Chapter One