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After Colonialism


This section of our course is devoted to the dilemmas of building Nation-states in the Post-colonial World.

One of the challenges of this part of the course is that it is so difficult to nail down that portion of the world that is not “liberal” (First World) or “Leninist” (old Second World).  There is a good reason why this is so.  What we often refer to as the “developing world” or the “Third World” is a vast array of different types of countries and civilizations.  On the one hand, Americans tend to ignore the fact that there are highly developed states outside of the western world, such as Brazil (just look at the tendency to disparage this advanced country’s Olympics:  READ).  On the other hand, there are fantastically poor states, such as Chad and Sudan.

My solution to this challenge is to focus on a specific category of states which have at least one thing in common:  the colonial experience.  This approach has a distinctive benefit.  Many of the major crises in the world today are the result of European colonialism, including Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

27.  LECTURE:  Monday, October 30

Reflections on the contradictions between  two ideal types: tradition and modernity.

Today’s Assumption:  The norms and institutions of traditional society are as logical  as those of modern society.

A good example of  liberal democracy’s problem with the expression of traditional ways of acting: Angelique Chrisafis, “France’s Headscarf Rule,” The Guardian,” July 2013  PRINT AND READ


FILM: Monday, October 30 and Tuesday, October 31:  7:00 p.m.  Location: TBA

Film #3 (Evening):  “Mr. Johnson” READ


28. LECTURE:  Wednesday, November 1

 Reflections on the brutal and paradoxical consequences of colonial empires.

Today’s Assumption:  In this lecture, I will focus on colonialism’s role as an external instrument of change.  Whether we are talking about the realization of Napoleon’s imperial ambitions in Europe or Europe’s colonization of most of Africa and Asia one century later, many of the fundamental changes in political identity are introduced from outside.  Even after these colonial powers leave, their impact will be felt for decades and perhaps even centuries thereafter.

Assignment:  As you read the following essays, ask yourself whether and how the politics of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would have been different without the intrusion of western powers, such as Great Britain.  Would they be stable states today?  Or, in view of their fractured histories, is this question nonsensical?  Are they currently nation-states?  If not, can they be transformed into viable nation-states today?

The view from abroad:  Rudyard Kipling: “The White Man’s Burden” PRINT AND READ
Is this satire or imperial pride?

The view from within:  S. V. R. Nasr, “European Colonialism and the Emergence of Modern Muslim States”  PRINT AND READ

Walker, Martin, “The Making of Modern Iraq,” Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2003  PRINT AND READ

Amatzia Baram, “Broken Promises.” Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2003 PRINT AND READ


29. NO DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, November 3

We are not having discussion sections this week because you are writing your papers.  However, I would still like you to read the following links.  They will give you a better sense for what I mean by a traditional society as well as the inherent tension between traditional and modern forms of order.

Is traditional society inferior to modern society?  If so, why or in what ways? Would you want to live in a totally modern society?  Is Notre Dame a modern society?

In defense of corruption:  Glen Thrush, “If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district”  READ

In defense of du Lac:   When you look up the words “in loco parentis” (“in the place of a parent”) in the dictionary, you find this site:  HERE   For the future attorneys among you, you can find more about the concept of “in loco parentis”: Gott v. Berea College

30. LECTURE:  Monday, November 6

Reflections on the sensible logic of peasant society.

Today’s Assumption:  There are more peasants in the world than any other social group.  The organization of peasant societies makes more sense than we might imagine.  It relies upon a conception of reality known as the “limited good.”

Assignment:  Read Foster’s seminal article and the newspaper piece below and ask yourself what the advantages and disadvantages of peasant society would be.

George Foster: “Peasant society and the image of the limited good” PRINT AND READ

Sara Sidner, “Brothers share wife to secure family land” READ

On primogeniture:  READ

“People on the Move”:

Linden, “The exploding cities of the developing world,” January/February 1996  Search through JSTOR and PRINT and READ

31. NO CLASS,  Wednesday, November 8

I will be in Washington, DC, giving a lecture at the Library of Congress on the relationship between Marxism and Stalinism

In preparation for your discussion section on Friday, read Carolina Maria de Jesus,  Child of the Dark.  Read at least the first half of the book, if not all of it. De Jesus’s story is painfully revealing.  As you read it, try to imagine what you would do if you were in her shoes.  Keep in mind that Carolina Maria was a living, breathing human being, just like you are now.  She had nothing–often not even food in her stomach–and she somehow managed to write this diary.

Carolina Maria de Jesus,  Child of the Dark.


An aside on November 9:  How many world-historical events occurred on this day in the twentieth century? What were they? How would you know if they are “world-historical”?


32. DISCUSSION SECTION, Friday, November 10

Discussion theme:  What does it mean to be poor?

Assignment:  The poor are more capable of recognizing the truth than we are


33. LECTURE: Monday, November 13.

Reflections on a global problem—poverty—and its implications for life, society, and politics.

Today’s Assumption:   Being poor is a way of life for most people in the world. No student at the University of Notre Dame should be indifferent to the plight of the poor. Poverty is not only a problem for other peoples.  It is a problem for American society as well.


Carolina Maria de Jesus,  Child of the Dark.  Finish the book.

PBS News Hour, “Violence flares in Rio’s slums just months before summer Olympics,” May 31, 2016: WATCH and READ

Gapminder:  Look HERE for some of some very cool sources of information.  Gapminder is like an interactive game designed to take you through every piece of comparative data (e.g., literacy rates) that I will discuss today.  For some of the countries, you can even manipulate it over time, going back hundreds of years.  I could play around with this device all evening.

Jesse McKinley, “Cities deal with a surge in shanty towns”  READ


34. LECTURE: Wednesday, November 15

Reflections on the Global Movement of Humanity:  The Wanderers Challenge Western Complacency

You are in luck!  Emma and Mary will be giving this lecture.

In preparation, please read these articles:

Jodi Cantor and Katrin Einhorn, “Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year:  SKIM READ

Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?”  PRINT AND READ

“Refugee rhetoric echoes 1938 summit before Holocaust, UN official warns,” The Guardian, October 14, 2015  READ


35. DISCUSSION SECTION, Friday, November 17

Paragraph Assignment.  Please respond to the following assertion:  “The immigrant is more capable of living within the truth than we are.”


36. LECTURE:  Monday, November 20

Reflections on the different forms of authoritarian government:   Big men with big guns, big appetites, and big mouths.

Today’s Assumption: Western policymakers frequently rationalize life under dictatorial regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) as a political necessity.  Can we confidently say that we are the best judges of necessity?  Also, we sometimes forget or ignore the fact–tragically–that ordinary people must live under these regimes.

Assignment:  As you read about these regimes, ask yourself these questions: 1) Why would people support them? 2) How can the autocrats live with themselves after doing terrible things to stay in power? and 3) What should we do when we get our hands on them?

Patricia Sellers, “What exactly is charisma?”  READ

Lauren Collins, “The big man syndrome,” New Yorker,  December 14, 2011  WATCH AND READ

Lying to the poor:  The Poverty Gospel READ AND PRINT

Disappearances and torture: “Argentina: Waves from the Past” and “Gallery of Argentinian Torturers and Killers



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