The course offers a comparative perspective on postcolonial and postcommunist cultures against the epistemic background of late modernity/postmodernity, an age when the old political and economic scaffolding of both capitalist and communist empires collapses only to give way to new forms of domination. Hence, the course treats former colonies and former satellite communist states as siblings of subalter(n)ity. The aim is to highlight generic and structural similarities between traumatized post-imperialist cultures, on the one hand, and historical and ideological differences, on the other. By doing so, a more accurate and comprehensive view obtains of global coloniality in the post/modern age. Also, I am expecting that, by the end of the course, students will be able to import some methodological instruments of postcolonial criticism into the study of postcommunism, as well as to use postcommunist scholarship as an ideological moderator and a contributor to the critical vocabulary of the hegemonic first/third-world-oriented discourses in postcolonialism.
While theoretical and methodological reflexivity is thoroughly pursued in the various sessions, efforts are made to offer a lively picture of postcolonial and postcommunist discourses through particular examples. The agenda of this course is to rekindle the militant relevance and political involvement of cultural studies in the new context of postcommunist Romania/Eastern Europe. Postcolonial criticism has always been an effort on behalf of minor/marginal cultures not only to expose and understand the way in which a hegemonic center subdues and manipulates the development of their identity, but also to resist that pressure, devise a counter-discourse, and rectify their situation. By turning the critical lens of cultural studies on Romania’s own recent history as a marginalized and abused culture, the course is prompting students to engage their own colonized identities and to take a stance in terms of cultural politics.
Course instructor: Prof Bogdan Ștefănescu
Week 1. INTRODUCING THE COURSE AGAINST THE CULTURAL STUDIES CONTEXT
Why such a course in a British Cultural Studies programme? The aims and prerequisites of the course. The study of postcommunism and postcolonialism in the context of cultural studies.
Week 2. POSTCOLONIAL CULTURAL STUDIES – The West and the rest. Self and exotic other in the creation of European identity.
Readings: “Postcolonial Cultural Studies” in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Criticism and Theory, eds. Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth, The Johns Hopkins UP, 1994; Edward W. Said, “Introduction,” Orientalism, new and rev. ed., New York: Vintage Books, 1994 (1983).
Week 3. MAIN CONCEPTS OF COLONIALITY – Coloniality, colonialisms, colonies; Colonialism versus imperialism, colonialism and modernity.
Readings:Bogdan Ştefănescu, Postcommunism / Postcolonialism: Siblings of Subalternity, EUB 2013 and one of the following: Osterhammel, Jürgen. Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview. Princeton: Marcus Wiener Publishers and Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1997 (1995) or ‘Modernism’ and ‘modernity’ entries in Ashcroft, B. et alia, Key Concepts in Post-colonial Studies. London & New York, Routledge, 1999 (1998).
Week 4. DEPENDENCY AND CULTURAL TRAUMA (I) – The coloniality of (post)dependent cultures: Cultural trauma as unifying concept for Western and Soviet coloniality – I
Readings (one of the following): Piotr Sztompka, “The Trauma of Social Change: A Case of Postcommunist Societies”, J. Alexander et al. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, University of California Press, 2004 or Rebecca Saunders and Kamran Aghaie, “Introduction: Mourning and Memory”, Comparative Studies of South Asia Africa and the Middle East vol. 25, no.1 (2005).
Week 5. DEPENDENCY AND CULTURAL TRAUMA (II) – The coloniality of (post)dependent cultures: Cultural trauma as unifying concept for Western and Soviet coloniality – II
Readings (one of the following): Robert Eaglestone, “’You Would Not Add to My Suffering If You Knew What I Have Seen”: Holocaust Testimony and Contemporary African Trauma Literature’, Studies in the Novel vol. 40, 1&2 (2008) or Kiossev, Alexander, “Notes on Self-colonising Cultures”, Art and Culture in post-Communist Europe. Eds. B. Pejic. & D. Elliott. Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 1999 and Aili Aarelaid-Tart, Cultural Trauma and Life Stories (Estonia), Kikimora Publications, 2006.
Week 6. POSTCOMMUNISM VS. POSTCOLONIALISM – Contrasting postcommunism and postcolonialism: generic and typological similarities vs. historical and ideological differences.
Readings (one of the following): David Chioni Moore, „Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Towards a Global Postcolonial Critique”, Violeta Kelertas (ed.) Baltic Postcolonialism,Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2006 or S. Chari and K. Verdery, „Thinking between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War”, Comparative Studies in Society and History 51.1 (2009) or Henry F. Carey and Rafal Raciborski, “Postcolonialism: A Valid Paradigm for the Former Sovietized States and Yugoslavia?”, East European Politics and Societies 18 (2004).
Week 7. POSTCOLONIAL CRITICISM – Main Concepts of Postcolonial Cultural Studies and their potential applicability in Postcommunist Cultural Studies
Reading: A selection of relevant entries from Ashcroft, B. et alia, Key Concepts in Post-colonial Studies, London & New York: Routledge, 1999 (1998).
Week 8. POSTCOMMUNIST CULTURAL STUDIES (I) – Main Concepts of Postcommunist Cultural Studies.
Readings: A selection of relevant entries from Monica Bottez et al. Postcolonialism/Postcommunism: Dictionary of Key Cultural Terms, EUB 2011 and Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Week 9. POSTCOMMUNIST CULTURAL STUDIES (II) – The Other(ing of) Europe.
Readings (one of the following): Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997 or Milica Bakic-Hayden, „Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia”, Slavic Review, 54. 4 (1995).
Week 10. THE MISSING LINK: SOVIET EASTERN EUROPE AND THE THRID WORLD – The Connection between the Second and Third World in a Colonial Context.
Readings (one of the following): Benyamin Neuberger, “The African Concept of Balkanisation”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (1976) or Monica Popescu, “Lewis Nkosi in Warsaw: Translating eastern European experiences for an African audience”, Journal of Postcolonial Writing Vol. 48, No. 2 (2012).
Week 11. EAST-EUROPEAN/POSTCOMMUNIST PERSPECTIVES ON THE STUDY OF POSTCOLONIALISM – Struggles over symbolic capital/power in postcommunist Romania
Reading: Katherine Verdery, National Ideology under Socialism : Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceausescu’s Romania („Conclusion”).
Week 12. EAST-EUROPEAN/POSTCOMMUNIST PERSPECTIVES ON THE STUDY OF POSTCOLONIALISM – Contributions of Central and East European / Postcommunist Cultural Studies to the Understanding of Coloniality.
Readings (one of the following): Monika Albrecht (ed.). “Introduction” to Postcolonialism Cross-Examined: Multidirectional Perspectives on Imperial and Colonial Pasts and the Neocolonial Present. London, New York: Routledge, 2019 or Dumitru Tucan, “The Adaptability of Theory: Postcolonialism Vs. Postcommunism in Romanian Literary Studies”, in Dacoromania litteraria vol.II / 2015.
Weeks 13-14. PREPARATION AND TUTORING FOR FINAL ESSAY.
REQUIREMENTS AND EVALUATION
- A minimum of 50% attendance
- Participation in class discussions and a presentation/3-page critical essay, counting for 50% of the final mark