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Week 7. Global Subjects and Identities

Tutor: Claudia Stein (

This seminar investigates several famous concepts of identity and selfhood put forward by postcolonial scholars from the late 1970s. We will explore their relationship to the wider trend of postmodern history writing of the 1980s/1999s. What is a postcolonial identity? What do we understand by ‘the other’ or a ‘hybrid' decolonised self? What about the European self in relation to the decolonized one? Finally, we’ll ask whether these famous conceptualisations of human identity are still valid in today’s truly globalised world. Or do we need new concepts of human identity?

Seminar questions:

• What understandings of identity stands at the core of postcolonial history emerging from the 1980s?

• Why did postcolonial historians from the 1980s objected to earlier concepts of the self and identity?

• Can the subaltern ever truly speak for her/himself?

• 'Orientalism is a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.’ (Edward Said)

Seminar readings:

1. Homi Bhaba, 'Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree outside Delhi', May 181, Critical Inquiry, 12, 1 (1985), pp. 144-165. (available at:

2. Said, Edward W., Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978). Reprint with new afterword. London: Routledge, 1995, introduction (

3. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (first published in Wedge 718 (1985), repr. in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Eds. Cary Nelson, and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988. 271–315; and in Colonial Discourse and Post¬Colonial Theory: A Reader, eds. Patrick Williams, and Laura Chrisman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994; revised ed. in Rosalind C. Morris, Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. 21–80.

Background readings:
Featherstone, Simon: Postcolonial Cultures. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
Gikandi, Simon: “Poststructuralism and Postcolonial Discourse.” Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies. Ed. Neil Lazarus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 97–119.
McLeod, John: The Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies. London/New York: Routledge, 2007.
Mongia, Padmini, ed.: Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Müller-Funk, Wolfgang: “Postcolonialism and the Dialectic of the Other in a European Context.” Import Export: Cultural Transfer. India, Germany, Austria. Eds. Angelika Fitz et al. Berlin: Parthas, 2005. 40–46, 253–258.
Prakash, Gyan: “Subaltern Studies as Postcolonial Criticism.” The American Historical Review 99.5 (1994): 1475–1490.
Robinson, Douglas: Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome, 1998.
Syrotinski, Michael: Deconstruction and the Postcolonial: At the Limits of Theory. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007.
Rutherford, Jonathan: “The Third Space: Interview with Homi Bhabha.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.
Simon, Sherry: “Translation, Postcolonialism and Cultural Studies.” Meta 42.2 (1997): 462–477.
Werbner, Pnina, and Tariq Modood, eds.: Debating Cultural Hybridity: Multi¬Cultural Identities and the Politics of Anti-Racism (1997). London/New Jersey: Zed Books, 2015.
Young, Robert J.C.: Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001.