Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
29 June 2020


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 contemporary controversies surrounding human rights. It will address how colonialism, racism and cultural domination continue to influence human rights are enjoyed and exercised unequally, and indeed may be inapplicable to many social groups in certain contexts. We will be looking at colonialism as a source of human rights problems both in the past and present, analysing how imposed social, cultural and political processes have undermined local uniqueness and cultural distinctiveness. We will tie these to contemporary economic and political issues such as racial injustice, cultural erasure, forced displacement and migration. The module will also expose students to classic texts by Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou and Michael Taussig. These will be combined with discussions of specific international situations such as the Algerian anticolonial revolution, the creation of refugees in Europe and the Americas, 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 aims

The module aims to provide students with a broad sociological and anthropological understanding of the factors that have a bearing on the unequal exercise of human rights today.

Module learning outcomes

Students will know about the colonialism as a major factor pertinent to human rights today, and they will be able to understand how these play out in specific contexts in the Americas, the Middle East and Europe.

Module information

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2019-20 and will be updated in September.

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

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. Students will be asked to commit to a group presentation on a relevant film.


  • 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 during term time    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
Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email:



External examiner

Prof Paul Stretesky
The University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Professor of Criminology
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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