GV4K2      Half Unit
Postcolonial and Comparative Political Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Leigh Jenco


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.

This course is capped at two groups. Priority will be given to students enrolled on the MSc in Political Theory programme. 

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

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.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 25 hours in the Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching may be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. There will be a reading week in LT Week 6.

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. 

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 15

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication