Schalk van der Merwe (Stellenbosch University)


From 9:00
to 13:45
From 9:00
to 13:45

Course description
The modern world is characterized by a highly interconnected landscape in which various worldviews vie for dominance across economic, political, and social networks. Despite this interconnectedness, which has given rise to a number of social justice movements advocating for the rights of historically marginalized people, established power structures still hold sway. This course explores the field of postcolonialism, which examines the cultural, political, and economic aftermath of colonialism, with a particular focus on Africa. We will examine how colonialism has shaped the identities, experiences, and perspectives of colonized people and how this legacy continues to influence power dynamics between former colonies and the West. In fact, by adopting interdisciplinary approaches to studying the histories of non-elites, postcolonial scholars have shed light on both the unique features of African societies and universal human experiences. Our aim is to challenge and deconstruct the dominant narratives of colonialism, particularly those that continue to silence and disregard the African perspective. This course, accessible to students without prior knowledge of African studies, will draw from a range of disciplines, including literature, history, politics, and cultural studies, to offer a multi-disciplinary examination of postcolonial Africa. Our hope is that students will leave the course with a newfound understanding not just of contemporary Africa, but also of their own histories and identities.

Teaching method
The course consists of 2 x 4.5 hour face-to-face meetings per week over four weeks that will be a blend of lectures, seminars, group presentations, and discussions drawing from multi-media sources like documentaries, films, news clips, music, etc. Synchronous and asynchronous online class presentations are also an option.


Week 1: A colonial history of Africa (different phases, the Scramble for Africa, WWI, inter-war period, WWII).

Week 2: African independence (movements, wars, rising nationalisms, philosophies).

Week 3: Africa post-independence (conflicts, politics, economics, society, Cold War, the Arab Spring).

Week 4: Postcoloniality today (decolonisation, culture, identity, arts,) and final presentations.


Two tutorial assignments - 10% each of final mark
One research essay - 30% of final mark
Final presentation (to be presented in class) at the end of the term - 50%

Virtual component
There will be one introductory online class before the start of the course (date to be determined) which will serve as an open conversation about students’ existing knowledge of Africa and their expectations. It is intended to establish a baseline to which their gained knowledge at the end of term will be measured.

Course outcomes
This course aims to deepen students' understanding of the interactions between Africa and other regions of the world. Through an examination of African lived experiences, including social, cultural, political, and economic aspects, students will gain a broader perspective on the historical trajectories shaping these experiences in the postcolonial era. By exploring the legacy of colonialism in Africa, this course highlights the ongoing impact of inequality perpetuated by the global power dynamic between the developed and developing world. It also brings into focus the nature of African agency against this background.


Reading list (more sources to be added in response to class discussions):

• "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
• "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon
• "Black Skin, White Masks" by Frantz Fanon
• "A History of Africa" by J.D. Fage and R.A. Oliver
• "The Condition of Postcoloniality: Power, Economy, and Culture" by Ato Quayson
• "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya" by Caroline Elkins
• "Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction" by Robert J.C. Young
• "The Postcolonial Studies Reader" edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin
• "Postcolonial African Cinema: From Political Engagement to Poetic Reflection" by Josef Gugler


Last updated: April 24, 2023


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272