Colonialism and the Making of the Modern World

Colonialism and the Making of the Modern World

Winter 2023
©️ Omnia El Shakry


This course will be a thematic exploration of colonialism as an historical, political, cultural, and psychological experience. We will highlight struggles between Europeans and colonized peoples and think historically about global structures of inequality, that is to say, the exploitation of human difference within capitalism and colonialism.

Topics include: Columbus and ‘the cannibals’; the Spanish conquest of Mexico; the Atlantic slave trade; racial capitalism and modernity; the Haitian Revolution; British colonialism in India and Egypt; the Belgian Congo; the relation between Self and Other in the colonial encounter; the psychology of race and racism; and the Algerian war of decolonization. The emphasis will be on a discursive understanding of colonialism, rather than comprehensive chronological and geographical coverage. We will engage a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, novels, and films in our exploration. 

Required Texts

Miguel Leon-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.)

Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (London: Verso, 1998).

Michel Rolph-Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).

Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London & New York: Routledge, 2002).

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (New York: Dover Press, [1902]1990).

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Markmann (New York: Grove Press, [1952]1967).

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, [1961]1963). 

Required Films & Videos:

Snoop Dog Says Read the Syllabus, Snoop Dog (2020, 25 seconds)

Aguirre: The Wrath of God, dir. Werner Herzog (1972, 1:30 minutes)

Geographies of Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, dir. Kenton Card (2020, 17 minutes)

Égalité For All: Touissant L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution, dir. Noland Walker (2009, 55 minutes)

Battle of Algiers, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo (1966, 122 minutes)

Black Skin, White Masks, dir. Isaac Julien (1996, 72 minutes)