GV4K2      Half Unit
Postcolonial and Comparative Political Theory

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Leigh Jenco CON.4.13


This course is available on the MSc in Global Politics and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Priority will be given to students on the MSc in Political Theory programme.

Course content

This course will examine the consequences of, and responses to, the historic domination of Euro-American forms of knowledge in the field of political theory. Situating political theory as one of many disciplines that reinforce the cultural imperialism of colonial orders, the course will consider how postcolonial theorists have diagnosed this form of epistemic imperialism. We will go on to discuss how recent attempts at forging a “comparative political theory” might (or might not) productively engage more diverse forms of thinking for the purpose of making our conversations about political life more truly global, rather than parochially “Western.”  The course will provide students with the vocabulary and conceptual tools to navigate this difficult theoretical terrain, through a focus on a close reading of primary texts, including both classics of postcolonial criticism as well as texts from the non-Western world that respond to or challenge such diagnoses of the modern condition. This course examines the very question of marginalization in the field of political science, using a huge range of writing from thinkers across space and time (from East, South, and Southeast Asia; from the early modern period; from the mid-20th century; from contemporary debates), including some in translation.


25 hours of seminars in the LT.

This will be a 2.5 hour seminar-style discussion class, focused on close readings of dense theoretical material. A short lecture will set out the basics of the assigned reading material for each class, and guide students to navigate it on the basis of their own needs and interests. The remaining time will then be used for more organic discussion of the assigned readings, which students are required to do in advance. I will also use some in-class time to discuss expectations for essays, and to give general feedback about essay writing after the formative essay has been marked. There will be one in-class quiz in the latter half of the course. 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

  • Nandy, Ashis. 1988. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2000. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Cesaire, Aime. [1956] 2010. “Culture and Colonization.” Social Text 103 (2): 127-144.
  • Idris, Murad, Leigh K Jenco, and Megan C. Thomas, eds. 2019. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Euben, Roxanne L. 1997. “Comparative Political Theory: An Islamic Fundamentalist Critique of Rationalism.” The Journal of Politics 59 (1): 28–55. https://doi.org/10.2307/2998214.
  • Chen, Kuan-Hsing. 2010. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham [NC]: Duke University Press.
  • Jenco, Leigh. 2015. Changing Referents: Learning Across Space and Time in China and the West. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Thomas, Peter D. 2018. “Refiguring the Subaltern.” Political Theory 46 (6): 861–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591718762720.
  • Hokari, Minoru. 2011. Gurindji Journey: A Japanese Historian in the Outback. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Thomas, Megan C. 2010. “Orientalism and Comparative Political Theory.” The Review of Politics 72 (04): 653–77. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670510000574.
  • Dallmayr, Fred. 2004. “Beyond Monologue: For a Comparative Political Theory.” Perspectives on Politics 2 (2): 124–44.


Essay (45%, 2000 words) and in class assessment (10%) in the LT.
Essay (45%, 2000 words) in the ST.

Further information: 

The 10% assessment will be in the form of a 30 minute, in-class quiz during the LT. 

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication