Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
14 March 2024


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 complicating factor in understanding human rights, especially those pertaining to minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, and refugees.

In the 10 weeks, we will examine how European notions of progress, including how the sovereignty of nation-states have proliferated at the expense of local uniqueness and cultural distinctiveness.  We will tackle these questions by looking at scholars such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, and Giorgio Agamben. These will be combined with analyses of specific cases such as the French colonisation of Algeria, the British colonisation of Australia, the ecological terror inflicted on Amazonia, the creation of global refugees, and the dispossession of indigenous peoples.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To educate students on the contemporary significance of past and ongoing colonial occupations and their significance for understanding human rights today.

  • To extend knowledge of the meanings of human rights sociologically and consider concerns about cultural differences and the experiences of cultural erasure.

  • To help students appreciate the importance of an interdisciplinary and more creative understanding of these issues through social science, history, law, literature, and film.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Work together to formulate ideas and analyses of films and scholarship to give meaning to the contemporary human rights concerns in light of histories of colonialism.

  2. Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of analysing visual images.

  3. Demonstrate how to make an oral presentation or short film with other students who are from different disciplines and degree programmes, and to do this in a theatre environment.

  4. Demonstrate research skills through a major piece of writing combining module materials with independent investigations.

  5. Compose a disciplined yet creative piece of research writing that necessitates the use of both specific sources and materials that are independently uncovered.

  6. Demonstrate the ability of writing and thinking beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Module information

We will hold seminars consisting of a lecture and student presentations. In order to bring visual and narrative context to the issues and conflicts we cover. We will also have a separate programme of film screenings of significant feature films and documentaries. Students will be responsible for a group presentation on a film and a research essay.

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

As well as seminars and in order to bring visual and narrative context to the issues and conflicts we cover, we will also have a 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’.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour seminar each week.

Attendance in person is expected. There will also be a film screening each week


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

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 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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

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