Postcolonialism and feminism(S) (gens 5105)

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Instructor: Nadia Jones-Gailani

Department of Gender Studies

Class information: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3.30-5.10pm; Zrinyi 412

Office: Zrinyi 14, room 511
Course Description
In this 4-credit course, we will identify and trace the centrality of gender to the processes and problematics of colonialism, postcolonialism, nationalism and transnationalism, and the ways in which feminism(s) have been shaped both by and within these different contexts. Postcolonial scholarship emerged in the wake of nineteenth century imperial expansion and more critically during the first part of the twentieth-century as colonies struggled for independence and self-determination. By rejecting western hegemony, the postcolonial paradigm challenges the dominance of the liberal and rationalistic Enlightenment episteme by engaging with the “Other”. We will draw broadly in the course to engage with a history of postcolonial feminist thought, with an effort to align the course with some of the better recognized and also lesser known authors that have prioritized women’s lived and material experiences, women’s labour and their uses by nationalist movements, the feminist politics of anti-colonial struggle and all within the broader framework of imperial shifts that have informed the current stage of capitalism.


Postcolonial feminists and areas of feminist writing continue to address women and girls that are caught between imaginaries and geographies of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’, and we will take time in the course to explore what it is that has formed the temporal and spatial foundations for advancing the now well-cited ideas put forward by Edward Said in his seminal text, Orientalism. We will explore the implications of queer sexualities on this area of study, and look at how the sexual politics of respectability in the late nineteenth-century came to bear on regional, nationalist, ‘international’ politics of activism and feminism. The course will look at decolonized spaces and the politics of gendered citizenship, especially as it relates to the state’s investment in gender regimes; the law’s regulation of sexuality; the politics of female labor; and the centrality of gender to development. The course concludes by exploring local and global women’s movement across multiple contexts. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and engage with the major themes outlined in the course syllabus, and offer a critical interpretation of all class readings assigned to these themes.

  • Understand the key theoretical developments in the field of postcolonial and subaltern feminist pedagogy, as well as critical feminist critiques to colonialism, imperialism, nationalism and capitalism. 

  • Adopt an intersectional approach to the major themes of the course, and understand how gendered experiences and the interpretations of feminists and their allies, both in the past and in the present, have and continue to shape the ways we conceptualize a postcolonial feminism.

  • Engage actively with the key fields of colonial, postcolonial and imperial developments that subaltern and postcolonial feminist theory have critiqued, and be able to distinguish a multitude of different feminism(s).

Course Organization

The course is designed to be an intensive discussion-based seminar for graduate students. I like to think about this course syllabus as a contract with each student – if you accept the contract at the beginning of the term, I take this to mean that you agree to complete all components of the course. Weekly readings are a key part of making this a successful seminar discussion for all participants – please complete ALL of the reading before coming to class.

How you participate in this course will determine a large portion of your grade – more than 30% of your overall grade for the course. Please take the readings and course discussions seriously – prepare for class, complete the readings in advance, and participate as much as possible. You are permitted one free absence in the class, however, you are also required to provide documentation for each unexcused absence – please email me or come and visit me in my office if you have concerns about your attendance.

In class, we will discuss in greater detail the writing assignments for this course, and I will also provide a detailed breakdown of the requirements of each assignments on the course website in advance of the due date.

Course Assignments and Grading
Class Participation 30%
Book Review 20%
Film Critique 20%
Final Reflection Paper 30%

Course Requirements and Grading
Class Participation (30%)

This is a discussion-based course, and therefore you must come to class in order to receive a participation grade. If you do not come to class, you cannot pass this course. Should you be forced to miss class, you can “make up” one class throughout the term by writing a 1000-word analysis of the assigned readings for that week. You may not make up more than one missed class. Make-up work must be handed in to the instructor during the class period following the meeting you missed. If you anticipate missing classes (including for religious observances) please get in touch with me as soon as possible.

You should arrive for class having completed the reading and prepared to engage in a discussion of the material with your colleagues. Simply showing up and sitting silently in class is not considered participation, and you will not receive participation points for doing so. You must take an active part in classroom discussion and in-class activities to the extent that this is possible depending on class size and your own individual learning style. Since this type of assessment is based on course participation, if you have any issues participating in class or would like to speak further on this, please let me know at the beginning of the term.
This course deals with sensitive and controversial material, and I ask that you show every person in the classroom the same kind of courtesy and respect that you expect in return, REGARDLESS of colour, creed, sexual/gender identity, or religious background. You are encouraged to share your background and experiences in class, and therefore it is imperative that we maintain a free and warm intellectual environment so that we can provide the same respect to each and every individual student.
Book Review (20%)
For this assignment, you will read and critique a book of your choice that fits within the scope of the course. Before you begin the assignment, please look at examples of scholarly book reviews first to get a sense of the format – we will also discuss this in detail during our class. In addition to text/book of your choice, you are also required to find and employ two reviews of the book in question, and write your own review based on your reading of the text as well as the ways in which others have engaged with, or been enraged by, this work. Your review should be no more than 6-8 pages in length.
Film Critique (20%)
Based on of the films assigned for the course (see list at the end, and we will be addressing these as they relate to individual weeks), write a critical reflection of the film, with a particular focus on what kinds of information are provided, what kinds of methodologies are employed, how the author engages the topic and its relevance for an understanding of both ‘postcolonial’ and ‘feminism’. A more detailed description of this assignment will be available on the course website. The film critique paper should be no longer than 6-8 pages in length.
Final Reflection Paper (30%)
For the final assignment of the course, you will pick one of the weekly topics and reflect upon how the readings address two or more of the major questions/themes in the course. In the paper, you should draw from the assigned as well as the suggested readings for that week – no additional research or sources are required. The paper should be approximately 8-10 pages in length, and adhere to the writing guidelines outlined below in the syllabus. We will discuss the paper in further detail during our class.
Writing Guidelines
All written material must be printed in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Arial) and double-spaced, with page numbers included at the bottom of the page. Provide full references for all literature cited, including those on our syllabus. If you are unsure about rules for citations, and avoiding plagiarism, please see the Center for Academic Writing or the course instructor. Assignments must be submitted in hard copy AND uploaded to the e-learning site (unless we agree otherwise). Please print double-sided. Electronic documents must indicate your name and which assignment it is in the file name. And remember to back up your files so you don’t have to repeat your work!
Policy on electronic devices in class
You may work from a laptop or large tablet in class to take notes and/or access readings in electronic form unless this becomes too disruptive, at which point we will change the policy. Do NOT do this with a mobile phone. Phones must be switched off or on mute and must not be taken out during class.
Late Penalties

Students should make every effort to have in assignments, essays, and all other coursework by the date stated on the syllabus. I am willing to discuss the possibility of an extension for essays if you contact me a week in advance of the due date. Late assignments are subject to a 2% deduction per day until the assignment is handed in to the instructor.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy
Plagiarism will not be tolerated – any instance of plagiarism will automatically result in an “F” for the assignment and potentially an failing grade in the course. Please see the regulations on academic integrity as they are outlined by CEU:
You are responsible for knowing and adhering to these regulations, and understanding the consequences of your actions if you are in violation of any of them.
Here are guidelines for all scholarly/written work (created by Todd D. Shepard):

1. All written work submitted for credit is accepted as your own work. It may not have been composed, wholly or partially, by another person.

2. I encourage you to incorporate ideas from books and essays in your work as starting points, governing issues, illustrations, and the like, but in each case the source must be cited.

3. The wording of written work is taken as your own. Scholarly work, almost by definition, will include other writers’ phrases, sentences, or paragraphs. All of these—even if it’s only a key word or several words--must be presented as quotations and with the source acknowledged. Thus you may not submit work that has been copied, wholly or partially, from a book, article, essay, newspaper, another student’s paper or notebook, internet site, or any other written or printed media source unless you use proper citation.

4. The ideas, arguments, and conclusions of written work are accepted as originating with you, the writer. Written work that paraphrases any written or printed media material without explicit acknowledgement (N.B.: even if the source is cited in a footnote) may not be submitted for credit.

5. Remember that any on-line materials you use to gather information for a paper are also governed by rules about plagiarism, so you need to learn to cite electronic sources as well as printed and other sources.

6. You may correct and revise your writing with the aid of reference books and other sources. You may also discuss your writing with peer writing groups, peer tutors, other professors, or other people more generally. However, you may not submit writing that has been revised substantially by another.

Respect in the Classroom

This is a class that encourages critical thinking, so we must expect differences of opinion. The classroom is a safe space for each student to express themselves and their relevant opinions without suffering any kind of derisive comments from other students.

Please arrive on time, and if this is not possible, notify the instructor by email prior to the beginning of class.
Turn off mobile phones/smart phones – it is extremely disrespectful to other members of the class if you check emails, texts, messages, etc., during class time.


Please have your reader/readings with you in each class for reference. All assigned texts as well as additional texts for further reading are available on the e-learning site. The course instructor reserves the right to change any of the readings during the term.
Week 1: Introduction and Theoretical Perspectives
Tuesday, January 9
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture., (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988).
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, 'Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,' (updated in) Reina Lewis and Sara Mills, eds., Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader., Routledge, 2003.
Trinh T Minh-ha, "Difference: 'A Special Third World Woman Issue," in Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989).
Thursday, January 11
Sara Suleri, ‘Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition,’ Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Summer, 1992): 756-769.
Donna Harraway, 'Ecce Homo, Ain't (Ar'n't) I a Woman, and Inappropriate/d Others: The Human in a Post-Humanist Landscape,' in Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott, eds. Feminists Theorize the Political, (London and New York: Routledge, 1992).
Afsaneh Najmabadi, ‘Crafting an Educated Housewife in Iran,’ in Lila Abu-Lughod, ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Week 2: Colonial Politics and Policies
Tuesday, January 16

Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context. New York & London: Routledge, 1995. Chapter 1, ‘Lay of the Land’, pp. 21-36.

Susan Pederson, ‘National Bodies, Unspeakable Acts: The Sexual Politics of Colonial Policy Making,’ Journal of Modern History vol. 63 no. 4 (1991): 647-80.
Thursday, January 18
Ann Stoler, ‘Making Empire Respectable: The Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in Twentieth-Century Colonial Cultures,” Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, and Ella Shohat, eds., Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997).
Jenny Sharpe, Allegories of Empire (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992), Chapter 1.
Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1997.


Week 3: The Colonial Masculine and the Imperial Feminine
Tuesday, January 23
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Charles Lam Markmann (Originally published in New York: Grove Press, 1967), Chapter 3, “The Man of Color and the White Woman”.
Ashis Nandy, Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, (Delhi: Oxford UP, 1983), 35-55.
Thursday, January 25
Mokshadayini Mukhopadyaya, ‘The Bengali Babu’, in Tharu and Lalitha Young, Robert J.C., Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), Chapter 6, “White power, white desire: the political economy of miscegenation”.
Jane Haggis, ‘White Women and Colonialism’, in Reina Lewis and Sara Mills, eds., Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, (London and New York: Routledge, 2003).
De Alwis, Malathi. ‘Sexuality in the Field of Vision: The Discursive Clothing of the Sigiriya Frescoes,’ in Embodied Violence: Communalising Women's Sexuality in South Asia. eds. Kumari Jayawardena & Malathi de Alwis. Delhi: Kali for Women/London & New Jersey: Zed Press, 1996.
Primary Sources (available online, and to be used in class)
Emmeline Lott “The ‘English Governess’ in Egypt” [1835], in Gender, Modernity and Liberty, Reina Lewis and Nancy Mickelwright eds., (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), 89-109.
Forster, E.M. A Passage to India (1924). Penguin Classics, 2005.
Orwell, George. ‘Shooting an elephant’, 1936. (available online)
Week 4: Situating the ‘Self’
Tuesday, January 30
Seyla Benhabib, “Feminism and the Question of Postmodernism,” in Situating the Self, (New York: Routledge, 1992), 203-241.
Reina Lewis and Nancy Mickelwright “Introduction,” Gender, Modernity and Liberty, Reina Lewis and Nancy Mickelwright eds., (London: IB Taurus), 1-30.
Reina Lewis, “Race, Femininity and Representation,” in Gendering Orientalism, (New York: Routledge, 1996), 12-52.
Thursday, February 1
Nira Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation, (London: Sage, 1997), Chapter 1, 21-25.
Tanika Sarkar, Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion, and Cultural Nationalism, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2001), Chapter 6, “Conjugality and Hindu Nationalism”
Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. Routledge, 1995, Chapter 10.

Primary Sources (available online, and for use in class)

Tagore, Rabindranath. Home and the World. (1916) Penguin World Classics, 2005.

Film: Mother India.
Week 5: Postcolonial ‘States of Morality’
Tuesday, February 6
Jacqui M Alexander, “Redrafting Morality: The Postcolonial State and the Sexual Offences Bill of Trinidad and Tobago,” in Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, eds., Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo and Lourdes Torres, (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991).
Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship, (Durham: Duke UP, 2006), Chapter 3, ‘Sex: The Story of Late Victorian Homosexual Exceptionalism.’
Thursday, February 8
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, The Scandal of the State: Women, Law, Citizenship in Postcolonial India, (Durham: Duke UP, 2003), Introduction, and Chapter 7, ‘Outlaw Woman’.
Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, ‘At the Cost of Women: The Family and Modernization-Building Project of the Philippines in Globalization,” in Interventions: Journal of Postcolonial Studies 5:1 (2003): 29-44.
Week 6: Reading Week (Feb 13-15)
This week we will not meet for the regular class period. Instead, you will complete a book review of one of the selected texts and submit it before class on Week 7.

Week 7: Women in Anti-Colonial Struggles
Tuesday, February 20
Frantz Fanon, ‘Algeria Unveiled’, in A Dying Colonialism, (Grove Press, 1965; Penguin, 1970).
Assia Djebar, Women of Algiers in their Apartment, translated by Marjolijn de Jager, (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992), Chapter ‘Forbidden Sight, Interrupted Sound’.
Thursday, February 22
Kumari Jayawardene, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, (London: Zed Books, 1986), Introduction.
Hélène Cixous, “My Algeriance, in other words: to Depart not to arrive from Algeria,” in Stigmata, (London: Routledge, 1998), 152-172.
Susie Tharu and K. Lalitha, eds., Women Writing in India, Vol. II (New Delhi: Oxford UP, 1993), (selections), 66-69.
Primary sources (available online, and for in-class use)

Rabindranath Tagore, Home and the World, (Originally published: 1916; Penguin World Classics, 2005).

Film: Silence of the Palace.
Week 8: “Erotic Autonomy as a Politics of Decolonization”
Tuesday, February 27
Jacqui Alexander, “Erotic Autonomy as a Politics of Decolonization: An Anatomy of Feminist and State Practice in the Bahamas Tourist Economy,” in Alexander and Mohanty, eds. Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, (London and NY: Routledge, 1997).
Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. Chapter 1, 6-15.
Licia Fiol-Matta, Queer Mother for the Nation: The State and Gabriela Mistral. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), Introduction.
Thursday, March 1
Joseph Massad ‘Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World,’ Public Culture 14 (spring 2002): 361-85 (longer version in Ch.3 of Desiring Arabs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
Denis Altman, “Rupture or Continuity? The Internationalization of Gay Identities,” in Postcolonial, Queer: Theoretical Intersections, (New York: State University of New York Press, 2001).
Recommended Films

Films: Strawberry and Chocolate


Week 9: Militarization and Women

Tuesday, March 6
Urvashi Butalia, “Legacies of Departure,” in Philippa Levine, ed., Gender and Empire, (New York: Oxford UP, 2004).
A. Rai and J. Puar, “Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots,” Social Text 72 (Volume 20, Number 3), Fall 2002: 117-148.
Thursday, March 8
Suvendrini Perrera, “The Gender of Borderpanic: Women in Circuits of Security, State, Globalisation and New (and Old) Empire,” in Women, Crime and Social Harm: Towards a Criminology for the Global Age, eds., Maureen Cain and Adrian Howe, (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2008), 69-93.
You-me Park, “Comforting the Nation: “Comfort Women,” the Politics of Apology and the Workings of Gender,” Interventions 2:2 (2000): 199-211.

Week 10: Religion as ‘Exception’
Tuesday, March 13
Aihwa Ong, “Sisterly Solidarity: Feminist Virtue under ‘Moderate Islam’” in Neoliberalism as Exception, (Duke University Press, 2006), 31-52.
Saba Mahmood, “Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some

Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival,” in Cultural Anthropology 16(2):202-236.

Fedwa Malti-Douglas, “The Physician and the Prostitute,” in Fedwa Malti-

Douglas, Men, Women, and God(s): Nawal El Saadawi and Arab Feminist Poetics,

(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), Chapter 3.
Recommended Film:

Snow by Pamuk Orhan, translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely. Faber, 2004.
Thursday, March 15
Week 11: Transnational Feminism(s)
Tuesday, March 20
Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, eds., Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, (London and NY: Routledge,1997), Introduction.
Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, “Introduction: Transnational Feminist Practices and Questions of Postmodernity,” in Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).
Thursday, March 22
Amrita Basu, ‘Globalization of the Local/Localization of the Global: Mapping Transnational Women's Movements,’ in Reina Lewis and Sara Mills, eds., Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, (London and New York: Routledge, 2003.
You-me Park and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, “Postcolonial feminism,” in Henry Schwarz and Sangeeta Ray, eds., Companion to Postcolonial Studies. London and NY: Blackwell, 1999.
Recommended Film:

Offside. dir. Jafar Panahi (2006) (Iran).

Week 12: Feminism and Memory (March 28)
Tuesday, March 27
Fatima Mernissi, Women’s Rebellion and Islamic Memory, (New Jersey: Zed Books,

1996), Chapter 1: “Writing is Better Than a Face-lift.”

Mervat F. Hatem, “The Invisible American Half: Arab American Hybridity and

Feminist Discourses in the 1990s,” in Ella Shohat, ed., Talking Visions, (Cambridge,

MA: MIT Press, 1998), 369-390.
Thursday, March 29
Class discussion

Signs; Gender & History; Feminist Studies; Meridians; differences; positions; Feminist Review; Hypatia; Interventions; History Workshop Journal; GLQ; Social Text
Fiction and cinema (for additional reading/viewing only):

Silence of the Palace dir. Moufida Tlatli (1994) (Tunisia)

Mother India dir. Mehboob Khan (1957) (India)

Strawberry and Chocolate dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1993) (Cuba).

Offside. dir. Jafar Panahi (2006) (Iran).

Ali, Monica. Brick Lane. London: Doubleday, 2003.

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Translated from the French by Modupe-Bode-Thomas. Heinemann, 1981.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. London: Women's Press, 1988.

Forster, E.M. A Passage to India (1924). Penguin Classics, 2005

Pamuk, Orhan. Snow. translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely. Faber, 2004.

Parks, Suzan-Lori. Venus. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1997.

Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North. (1966) Translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies. Penguin Modern Classics, 2003.

Additional Suggested Readings for the Course:
Neifei Ding, ‘“Wife-in-Monogamy”’ and the Exaltation of Concubines,’ Interventions: international journal of postcolonial studies 9:2 (July 2007), 219-237.
Mani, Lata. ‘Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India’, in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, eds. Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History. Kali for Women, 1989.
Selections from Tharu, Susie and K. Lalitha, eds. Women Writing in India, Volume I. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1991. (Krupa Sattianadan; Ramabai Ranade)
Sinha, Mrinalini. ‘Giving Masculinity a History’, Gender & History, Volume 11, No.3, November 1999: 445-460. See, also, Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.
Davin, Anna. ‘Imperialism and Motherhood’, History Workshop Journal. Volume 5, No.1, 1978: 9-66.
Sharpe, Jenny. Allegories of Empire (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992), Chapter 1.
Geraldine Heng and Janadas Devan, “State Fatherhood: The Politics of Nationalism, Sexuality and Race in Singapore,” in Andrew Parker et al eds., Nationalisms and Sexualities, (New York: Routledge, 1992).
Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005). (Chapter 1 and Epilogue)
Pathak, Zakia and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, '"Shahbano"' in Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott, eds. Feminists Theorize the Political. London and New York: Routledge, 1992 (also in Signs, 1989).

Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. ‘Reflections on liberalism, policulturalism, and ID-ology: citizenship and difference in South Africa,’ Social Identities, Volume 9, Issue 4, December 2003: 445 – 473.

Scott, Joan. Politics of the Veil. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Anannya Bhattacharjee, “The Habit of Ex-nomination: Nation, Women and the Indian Immigrant Bourgeoisie,” Public Culture 5:1 (1992): 19–43.

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