SO4C6      Half Unit
Reading Black Thought

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Olivia Rutazibwa STC S216


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

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Places are allocated based on a written statement. Priority will be given to students on the MSc in Human Rights and MSc in Human Rights and Politics. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

This course offers a collective close reading of selected African and (politically) Black thinkers and texts in the context of ongoing conversations of decolonisation and decoloniality.

Peoples of African descent have historically been subjected to sustained mass human rights violations:  violences, dehumanisations, captivity, destruction of life environment, forced labour and imposed poverty. Deconstructive critical, decolonial approaches have revealed the extent to which existing hegemonic Human Rights regimes, set out to combat these injustices, instead more often than not sustain colonial status quo in the present.

The course is organised around 5 themes (1) Epistemologies, 2) Political Decolonisation and Self-determination, 3) Ecology and Political Economy of Global Racial Capitalism, 4) Gender, Race and the (im)possibility of the Human, 5) Conviviality and Transversal Solidarities) to engage the ethos of human rights constructively; it turns to epistemic Blackness to expand our sociological imagination of the good life, it thus engages with epistemic Blackness for decolonial rather than identarian purposes. Through a close reading of historical and contemporary Black Thought we seek to unearth forgotten aspects, new perspectives, alternative priorities of human rights as well as address questions of possibilities and impossibilities of human rights for all.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

This course is delivered via weekly seminars, totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term (MT). The weekly 2h seminars are centred around students’ understandings of the required reading materials. 

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

max. 500 words reading summary of chosen text from pre-set reading list + portfolio ideas (bullet points)

Students are provided in text comments and verbal feedback during office hours (optional).

Indicative reading

  1. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. (2018) Epistemic Freedom in Africa
  2. Nyamnjoh, Francis. (2020). Decolonising the Academy: A Case for Convivial Scholarship
  3. Azoulay, Ariella. (2019). Potential History. Unlearning Imperialism
  4. Grovogui, Siba N. (1996). Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns and Africans. Race and Selfdetermination in International Law
  5. Walcott, Rinaldo. (2021). The Long Emancipation: Moving Towards Black Freedom
  6. Boggs, James and Grace (2011). Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader. (ed. Ward, S.)
  7. Yussof, Kathryn, (2018). A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None
  8. McKittrick, Katherine. (2015). Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis
  9. Oyewumi, Oyeronke. (1997) The Invention of Women
  10. Shilliam, R. (2015). The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections
  11. Soumahoro, Maboula, (2021). Black is the Journey. Africana the Name


Portfolio (90%) in the LT Week 2.
Class participation (10%) in the MT.

The course is assessed via:

  • 10% class participation assessed via in-class engagement and weekly reading summary template upload
  • 90% portfolio consisting of 1000 word reading summary + 2000 word critical case study

An electronic copy of the assessed portfolio, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the second Tuesday of Lent Term.

Attendance at all seminars and completion of set readings is required.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication