Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
26 May 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA L31112 Migration Studies

Module description

This interdisciplinary module begins from the premise that human rights can only be understood in historical, political and social contexts, and that these are heavily bound up with cultural domination. Specifically, we will be looking at past and ongoing colonialism as a major source of contemporary human rights problems concerning minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees.

Module aims

In the 10 weeks, we will examine how European notions of progress, including mandates for free markets, the expansion of industrialism and the sovereignty of nation states have proliferated at the expense of local uniqueness and cultural distinctiveness. We will tackle these questions by looking at writers such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Judith Butler as well as liberal thinkers who provided much of the support for colonialism. These will be combined with discussions of particular international situations such as the French colonisation of Algeria, British colonisation of India, the creation of refugees in Europe and the Middle East, the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers to the USA, the dispossession of indigenous peoples, and the global war on terror.

Module learning outcomes

As well as seminars and in order to bring visual and narrative context to the issues and conflicts we cover, we will also have separate programme of screenings of significant feature films and documentaries such as ‘The Battle of Algiers,’ on the Algerian uprising against French colonialism, ‘Bengal Shadows’ on the famine precipitated by British colonial policies, ‘Hannah Arendt’ on the life of the writer/philosopher and bureaucratic state crimes, 'Rabbit Proof Fence' on the Australian Aborigine stolen generations, Ula Tabari’s artful documentary ‘Private Investigation’ on living as a Palestinian in the Israeli state, ‘De Nadie’, a documentary about ‘nobodies’ heading for the US-Mexico border, and Errol Morris’ ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ which reveals American soldiers ‘views of the torture they used during the invasion of Iraq and ‘war on terror’.

Module information

Class Format: lecture, seminar discussion, textual analysis, film analysis.

Learning and teaching methods

Most modules at postgraduate level in Sociology are taught as a 2hr seminar. Most classes, labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing allows this). There may also be some online activities – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your seminar/class each week. Please note that you should be spending up to ten hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 30 hours in total for three 20--credit modules). This module will include a range of activities to help check your understanding of the complex colonial histories and human rights issues we cover. These will include individual exchanges of ideas with me the instructor and specific feedback on group presentations. Attendance at the classes/seminars is the heart of the module, providing opportunities to talk with your class teacher and other students and give feedback on lectures, readings and student presentations. The classes/seminars will be recorded and available via Listen Again. However, Listen Again is a very poor substitute for the live class sessions. Please note that the recording of seminars/classes is at the discretion of the teacher.


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 Coursework weighting
Coursework   Group presentation    25% 
Coursework   Research Paper    75% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


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



External examiner

Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 36 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
18 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
18 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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