Course code EDS341

EDS341 Decolonizing theory in the age of post-development

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Showing course contents for the educational year starting in 2020 .

Course responsible: Esben Leifsen
Teachers: Melanie Sommerville, Gard Frækaland Vangsnes
ECTS credits: 5
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Teaching exam periods:
January block.
Course frequency: Annual. 
First time: 2020H
Preferential right:
M-GDS, M-IES and M-IR. Other interested students must contact the course responsible. 
Course contents:

A growing academic literature associated with post-development critique questions dominant accounts about the human condition, human improvement and the world order. Theory from other positions in the world of academic writing reconsiders foundations of knowledge production that are granted a privileged position. This literature variably associated with the South, with First Nations, and indigenous, subaltern and feminist scholarship, aims at decentering and destabilizing universal understandings of reality. This kind of scholarship develops alternative lines of thought based on the understanding that colonial practices "constituted the modern world and the Eurocentric forms of knowledge production that marginalize other forms of knowing and being" (Asher 2017:516).

The title of EDS 341 refers to the practice of decolonizing theory, and at the same time to theory which is decolonizing in its orientation. Taking this double meaning as its starting point, the course introduces the students to research that challenges universal assumptions and explanations, and which from different positions and contexts of experience argues that all knowledge production is situated. The literature we read and relate to in this course questions assumptions about knowledge taken to be universally applicable and valid for all, contrasted to partial knowledge considered to apply to specific contexts.

Students in this course are asked to ponder on the power of universal knowledge production. What are the implications of universal claims to knowledge with the capacity to explain the world as it is, while other kinds of knowledge are deemed partial and local? We read and discuss a series of texts written from different ‘world positions’ and based on different de-colonial and subaltern engagements on the issues of decolonization, pluralism, post-colonial history writing and human - non-human interrelations. The aim is not to challenge the students to dismiss any academic traditions, but to increase awareness about knowledge practices’ limited epistemological and ontological reach. The students are encouraged to think through the implications of increasing awareness of this kind.

The course connects to (but does not overlap with) the EDS 305 course and specifically to the part on the ‘decolonization of development studies and larger academia’ (part 5). It elaborates further the theoretical position of situated knowledge by engaging in literature that originates in sites and trajectories of writing and thinking associated with alternative world positions.  

Learning outcome:
  • Students will gain a good understanding of perspectives within the post-development literature that questions universal claims to knowledge about the human condition, human improvement and the world order.
  • Students will be familiar with central theoretical debates on decolonization, pluralism, post-colonial history writing and human - non-human interrelations.
  • Students will be able to identify power mechanisms in dominant knowledge production and use this insight to capture the meaning and purpose of decolonial critique.
  • Students will through interactive learning be able to reflect on the implications of applying situated knowledge as a research strategy.
Learning activities:
This is a 5 credits January block course with an intensive learning approach - based on the reading of texts, brief introductions by the teacher and an emphasis on discussion and interactive learning led by the teacher in the classroom. Some sessions will be facilitated by the students. Visual media (films) will be used as an additional source to reflection and discussions. Contributions from guest lecturers. 
Teaching support:
Weekly meeting hours with teacher will be deifined.
A literature list with selected book chapters and articles will be available to the students in due time before course start.
Recommended prerequisites:
Bachelor-degree or similar. 
Mandatory activity:
The students should assist all days of teaching and must assist 2/3 of the time in order to pass. The students must write two short reflection notes based on course readings and discussions and submit these on time. Students will receive written or oral feedback on these texts. The course has an interactive learning approach and students will be asked to prepare short presentations of texts and themes.  
An oral exam with an external examiner will be organized at the end of the course. Graded A - F.
Nominal workload:
150 hours
Entrance requirements:
Type of course:
10 days of structured education from 9 - 15. 
External examiner will be involved in the oral exam. 
Examination details: Oral exam: A - E / F