Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
22 April 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA L31112 Migration Studies

Module description

This interdisciplinary module will survey a range of social processes that have a bearing on the contemporary human rights debates. Our premise is that human rights violations can only be understood in historical, political and social contexts, and that these are heavily bound up with cultural domination. We will be looking at colonialism as a source of human rights problems both in the past and present.

As well as seminars, we will also have separate programme of film screenings of significant feature films and documentaries that will add visual and aesthetic dimensions to our understandings of contemporary conflicts over rights around the world

Module aims

In the 10 weeks, we will examine how mandates for free markets, industrialism and state sovereignty have undermined local uniqueness and cultural distinctiveness. We will tackle these questions by looking at thinkers such as Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Michael Taussig. These will be combined with discussions of specific international situations such as the Algerian anticolonial revolution, the creation of refugees, walls and borders in Europe and Palestine, terror and resource extraction in South America, the race for remaining fossil fuels in the Far North of Canada, the forced removal of Aboriginal children in Australia, and the continuing 'War on Terror.'

Module learning outcomes

We will be looking at colonialism as a source of human rights problems both in the past and present.

Module information

Film screenings include:
'Battle of Algiers' about the Algerian resistance
'Bengal Shadows' on the famine caused by British colonial administration of India
'Concerning Violence', is inspired by Fanon's account of decolonization throughout Africa
'Burden of Dreams' the account of film director, Werner Herzog's Amazonian adventure
'Route 181' on the Israel Palestine border
'Rabbit Proof Fence' on the Australian Aborigine stolen generations
'Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner' on looking at the world as Inuit
'Standard Operating Procedure' on Abu Ghraib
'De Nadie' about the journeys of Central Americans to the US border

Learning and teaching methods



  • Frantz Fanon. (1967, c1965) A dying colonialism, New York: Grove Press.
  • Michael T. Taussig. (1986, c1987) Shamanism, colonialism, and the wild man: a study in terror and healing, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Badiou, Alain; Mackay, Robin. (2016) Our wound is not so recent: thinking the Paris killings of 13 November, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  • Mark Danner. (2009) 'US torture: voices from the black sites', in The New York Review of Books. (April 9, 2009)
  • Shohini Chaudhuri. (2014) Cinema of the dark side: atrocity and the ethics of film spectatorship, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Sarab abu Rabia-Queder. (2015) 'The forgotten victims of the Palestine ethnic cleansing', in The Naqab Bedouin and colonialism: new perspectives, Abingdon: Routledge. vol. Routledge studies on the Arab-Israeli conflict, pp.57-67
  • Lazreg, Marnia. (c2008) 'Conscience, imperial identity and torture', in Torture and the twilight of empire: from Algiers to Baghdad, Princeton: Princeton University Press. vol. Human rights and crimes against humanity, pp.173-190
  • Damien Short. (2016) Redefining genocide: settler colonialism, social death and ecocide, London: Zed Books Ltd.
  • Daulatzai, Sohail. (©2016) Fifty years of The Battle of Algiers: past as prologue, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Bull, Simone; Alia, Valerie. (2004-06) 'Unequaled acts of injustice: pan-indigenous encounters with colonial school Systems', in Contemporary Justice Review. vol. 7 (2) , pp.171-182
  • Orwell, George. (1962, c1957) 'Shooting an elephant', in Inside the whale: and other essays, Harmondsworth: Penguin., pp.91-99
  • Césaire, Aimé; Kelley, Robin D. G. (c2000) Discourse on colonialism, New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • Mark Danner. (2011) 'After September 11: our state of exception', in The New York Review of Books. (October 13, 2011)
  • Agamben, Giorgio. (2005) 'The state of exception as a paradigm of government', in State of exception, Chicago: University of Chicago Press., pp.1-31
  • Perugini, Nicola; Gordon, Neve. (©2015) The human right to dominate, New York: Oxford University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   group presentation     20% 
Coursework   Essay    80% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Colin Samson, email:
Dr Colin Samson



External examiner

Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 47 hours, 20 (42.6%) hours available to students:
27 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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