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Colonization and Decolonization in the Making of the Modern World: an Intensive Summer Course Taught in Rio de Janeiro and New Delhi

The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) is planning to offer the undergraduate course, “Colonization and Decolonization in the Making of the Modern World” as an intensive four-week class in June 2017, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and New Delhi, India. The course will accommodate up to 15 undergraduate students and will be co-taught by Claudio Lomnitz, Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology, and Manan Ahmed, Assistant Professor of History.

 “Colonization/Decolonization” course is one of three core courses in CSER curriculum. All CSER majors and concentrators are required to take this course. The course also qualifies for the Global Core, so it attracts a range of students from outside the major, as well. The class is taught as a seminar (limited to 22 students). Sometimes it is co-taught. We introduced the course in 2008 and have taught it every year since then. It is a popular course now offered twice a year to accommodate the growing number of CSER majors and concentrators and general student demand. There are now eight faculty members who teach the course on rotation.

Colonization/ Decolonization examines the dynamics of civilizational contact, exchange, and conflict through the reading and discussion of primary-source texts. Students read Christopher Columbus’s letters, the Requerimiento, Nahuatl poetry, and slave narratives; documents from the East India Company and the Opium War; the writings of Gandhi, Lu Xun, and Kwame Nkrumah; and the UN Charter, among others.

Offering the course as a moveable classroom in Brazil and India will be an exciting experience for students to visit diverse sites of colonization and decolonization. The summer intensive course will be based on the standard Colonization/Decolonization curriculum, modified for special focus and case studies (New World conquest and slavery and freedom in Brazil; modern colonization and post-colonialism in India). Students will visit of sites of historical and architectural significance, museums, libraries, and archives, and meet local scholars and activists with NGOs. Students who take the summer intensive course will receive 4 credits and credit for the CSER major/concentration requirement. In Year 1 of the project, we will be planning the curriculum and making arrangements with host institutions. Year 2 will be devoted to recruitment and preparation of students, and implementing the course.

South America


Mae Ngai
Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History


History Department
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