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10 cp of 100-level units in Politics and International Relations or International Development Studies

Unit rationale, description and aim

Today's world is a product of centuries of Western colonial processes, resulting in unequal power relations in the global political system. This inequality is explicit in the materialistic wellbeing of the Global North and the Global South. Furthermore, the legacy of colonialism manifests in more complex and entangled ways in cultures, politics, in knowledge capital and epistemology. This unit provides an overview of the historical contexts and geographical scope of colonialism, as well as its political consequences which have combined to shape the global order we experience today. The degree to which political and philosophical thinking characterised colonial thinking and practice will be interrogated in this course.

The unit will also discuss how the various colonised nations' struggles against imperialism fuelled a critique of the hegemonic domination of Western thought and culture. Key thinkers in postcolonial theory will be introduced, emphasising the application of their ideas to contemporary politics and international relations. The aim of this unit is to explore how contemporary political theory is engaged in the project of decolonisation, a topic which invites the rethinking of many of the basic concepts and premises of our current knowledge.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the debate surrounding colonialism and post-colonialism and the contexts in which these took place (GA5) 

LO2 - Critically discuss diverse perspectives surrounding the legacy of colonialism and how they are engaged in the project of decolonizing (GA1, GA2) 

LO3 - Apply the concepts, theories and methods used in postcolonial studies to an analysis of contemporary power relations in the world system (GA6, GA10) 

LO4 -Demonstrate the capacity to gather, analyse and advocate for ethical solutions to problems inherited from colonialism (GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Colonialism and its legacy 
  • Neo-colonialism: Methods and manoeuvres  
  • Introduction to postcolonial thought 
  • Methodologies of postcolonial studies  
  • Insurgency and resistance  
  • Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and international first nation perspectives 
  • Black Skin, White Masks (Frantz Fanon) 
  • Orientalism (Edward Said) 
  • Post-colonial feminist thought 
  • Post-western international relations 
  • Decolonising knowledge and power 
  • Critiques of postcolonial theory 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit offers two formal ways of learning and teaching. Lectures are organised based on case-based learning, a format that involves deep learning. Students explore real world challenges and problems, an undertaking that requires them to demonstrate their investigative, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Case-based learning requires learning specific theories and concepts that complement the conceptual tools and theoretical knowledge critical to analysing approaches to post-colonialism.  

Tutorials for this unit provide opportunities for active and collaborative learning. Students engage in course-specific activities including writing, interrogating ideas, exploring case studies and giving presentations. Relevant readings also enhance students’ knowledge of the various perspectives on post-colonial and post-western studies. As well as promoting analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of lecture content, these activities are designed to build skills appropriate to second year study in Politics and International Relations. The unit will consist of face-to-face teaching using lectures and tutorials or equivalent.  

This 10-credit point unit has been for 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are specifically designed to enable students to demonstrate their clear understanding of the complexities of power relations in the world system. There is no “right” answer to enquiry in the field of political science: one can approach a question or topic in several legitimate ways. Students are required to provide a coherent, substantiated, structured, and persuasive answer to the specific question asked in each assignment. This unit is assessed based on two written assessments that build students’ capacity to read, analyse case studies or ideas and communicate clearly in written form. The first of these written tasks is an opinion editorial, the second is an essay or take-home exam that requires students to apply skills, knowledge and content learnt across the semester. These tasks are complemented by an in-class tutorial assessment in which students are required to prepare and give an oral presentation that will trigger further discussion and debate in class and must also respond to another discussion or debate. The purpose of this assessment is to ensure students can competently apply their understanding of postcolonial theories to an empirical case study. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Tutorial presentation and participation in debate following another presentation. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA2, GA5, GA6, GA10 

Opinion editorial: requires students to write an 800 word opinion editorial to develop a position on the project of decolonisation 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Final essay: requires students to demonstrate thorough understanding of the subject matter, critical analysis of the relevant literature, and to incorporate and synthesise relevant conceptual/theoretical ideas 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (2013). Postcolonial studies: the key concepts (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge. 

Chibber, V. (2013). Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital. London: Verso. 

Choudhury, B., & Ebooks, C. (2016). Reading postcolonial theory: key texts in context. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 

Coulthard, G. S. (2014). Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

Gandhi, L. (1998). Postcolonial theory: a critical introduction. St Leonards, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin. 

Quayson, A. (2000). Postcolonialism: theory, practice, or process? Malden, Mass: Polity Press. 

Sadiki, L. (2004). The search for Arab democracy: discourses and counter-discourses. New York: Columbia University Press. 

Seth, S. (2013). Postcolonial theory and international relations: a critical introduction. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Spivak, G. C. (1988). Can the subaltern speak? Basingstoke: Macmillan. 

Young, R. (2016). Postcolonialism: an historical introduction. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell. 

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