Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC2112: Decolonising: The Discipline of International Relations

This module descriptor refers to the 2018/9 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Shubranshu Mishra (Convenor)

Available via distance learning


‘To decolonize a narrative is, at minimum, to expose the role colonialism had in its construction and through that awareness enhance its future development in ways that are non-colonized.’ (Sankaran Krishna, 2012)

In the last decade or so, many critical questions have been raised regarding modernity, democracy and governance, walls and borders, the legitimacy of war and the legitimacy of development. The discipline of International Relations has sought to explain the aforementioned through narratives filled with conspicuous absences - for instance, the lack of focus on the political agency of the so-called ‘Third World’, a term often used uncritically in the field - and has been unwilling to attend to calls for a decolonising agenda. Having emerged in North America, the discipline has not focused on the centrality of colonial origins to its own founding and instead has attempted to offer generalisable and universal explanations of global politics that do not take into account the specificity of acts of violence, like slavery, colonialism and occupations, inherently shaped by race and gender. By focusing solely on inter-state relations in the form of war and cooperation (e.g. Hundred Years' Peace, Democratic Peace), the discipline has erased issues of race, imperialism, sexuality, and culture in global politics, while remaining often uncritically preoccupied with the nation-state, national security and sovereignty.

This course will generate thinking around these historical and sociological issues (e.g. the absence of academic works focusing on the Haitian Revolution versus , in comparison to the predominant scholarship on the French or American Revolutions) to address pedagogical and on the ground challenges in the continuous development of the discipline of International Relations. You will examine the project of decolonising knowledge emerging from Latin America, particularly through the works of Walter Mignolo, to bring to light the colonial and postcolonial aspects of global politics and address the perils of hegemonic structures in the discipline. Resisting attempts to silence the historical and genealogical understandings of contemporary inequalities, you will scrutinise the production of knowledge and in so doing create new methods of enquiry from the positions of the indigenous, colonised and besieged subjects. This course, going beyond the Northern epistemologies, therefore, is deeply concerned with the following questions:

What is the role of locally situated knowledges of the indigenous and colonised and how can they be deployed in thinking about modernity/coloniality, democracy, mobility and development? How can we bring back categories of race, sexuality, and imperialism into the discipline to unsettle the immutable thesis that reduces it to mere inter-state relations? How can we deconstruct the dominant narratives about wars, migration and security to uncover and unravel the ingrained racist undertones?

Although no prior knowledge is required, it is expected that students taking this course are interested in historical and contemporary security and cultural debates from a theoretical and empirical point of view. A background in social science will be helpful for following the key debates. The module is especially suitable for students studying International Relations, Politics and History.

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