Postcolonialism and International Relations

Periodo di svolgimento
Info sul corso
Ore del corso
Ore dei docenti responsabili
Ore di didattica integrativa

Modalità esame

Relazione di seminario


Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"



What are the lasting and detrimental impacts of colonialism on processes of state-formation and state- society relations today? What is the postcolonial and what does decolonization mean? What are pros and cons of postcolonial theory, and how does it help understand existing international hierarchies? Do we need a postcolonial angle to understand reactions to 9/11, the Coronavirus pandemic or war in Ukraine?

The course will blend together and examine different islands of theory, engaging comparative historical sociology, critical race theory, and more specifically, the contribution that postcolonial studies make to political science, to the study of international politics and IR theorising. In doing so, the course proceeds as a work in progress, soliciting new contributions and the sharing of documents and ideas from all participants. Guest lecturers may intervene either in person or via videoconference, and open windows on ongoing debates and perspectives that within the field.

As the course proceeds, frontal lecturing will be gradually replaced by collectively engaging readings and through informal discussion. Active student participation is vital. The last session is devoted to discussing each other’s written contributions and reactions.

Assessment: Class participation, and the submission of a written essay: a short research paper with some in-depth middle range theory that is relevant to your research project, or – alternatively – a short reaction paper to one of the readings discussed during the course (to be agreed upon with the professor). Each submission will have a designated discussant among class participants.


Session 1

Tue - April 2, 2-5pm

Theorizing international hierarchies


 Recommended (depending on your IR theory background)

  • Scott Burchill et al, Theories of International Relations. London: Palgrave, 2013 (especially chapter 1, and chapters 2-9).

Chowdhry, Geeta, and Sheila Nair. "Introduction: Power in a postcolonial world: Race, gender, and class in international relations." Power, postcolonialism and international relations: Reading race, gender and classTaylor and Francis, 2003. 1-32

Session 2

Mon. – April 8, 2-5pm

Modern states and shadows of empire

Required readings

  • Scott Burchill et al, Theories of International Relations. London: Palgrave, 2013, chapter 6 on Comparative Historical Sociology
  • Bayly, Martin J. "Imperialism: Beyond the ‘re-turn to empire’ in International Relations." Routledge Handbook of Historical International Relations. Routledge, 2021. 355-367.
  • Leander, Anna. "Wars and the un-making of states: taking Tilly seriously in the contemporary world." Contemporary security analysis and Copenhagen peace research. Routledge, 2003. 85-96
  • Buzan, B., & Acharya, A. (2009). Why is there no non-Western international relations theory? An introduction. In Non-Western International Relations Theory (pp. 11-35). Routledge.


  • Steinmetz, George. "The sociology of empires, colonies, and postcolonialism." Annual Review of Sociology 40 (2014): 77-103.  
  • Latour, B., 2004. Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. Critical Inquiry 30(2)

Session 3

Wedn. – April 10, 10am-1pm.

Postcolonial perspectives in social sciences and IR theory

  •  Go, Julian, 2016. Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory, Oxford: Oxford UP, Selection: Introduction “Social Theory beyond   Empire?”, pp. 1-17. 
  •  Seth, Sanjay. "International relations: plural or postcolonial?." International Politics Reviews 9.2 (2021): 301-305
  •  Wolfe, Ross, 2017. “Dialectics and Difference: Against the ‘Decolonial Turn’”, Insurgent Notes, Issue 8 (12 pages).


  • Khalili, Laleh, 2013. Time in the Shadows. Confinement in Counterinsurgencies, Stanford:Stanford University Press. Selection: Introduction, pp. 1-10.
  • Salter, Mark B. "Edward Said and post-colonial international relations." International relations theory and philosophy: interpretive dialogues 80 (2010): 129
  • Chowdhry, Geeta. "Edward Said and contrapuntal reading: Implications for critical interventions in international relations." Millennium 36.1 (2007): 101-116.
  • Seth, S. (2013). Postcolonial theory and the critique of International Relations. In Postcolonial Theory and International Relations (pp. 15-31). Routledge.
  • Shani, G. (2008). Toward a Post-Western IR: The Umma, Khalsa Panth, and Critical International Relations Theory. International Studies Review10(4), 722-734.
  • Hwang, Yih-Jye. "Reappraising the Chinese school of international relations: a postcolonial perspective." Review of International Studies 47.3 (2021): 311-330.
  • Stoler Ann Laura, 2017. Duress. Imperial Durabilities in Our Times. Durham & London: Duke University Press. “Imperial Debris and Ruination”, pp. 336-379. 
  • WILLIAMS Patrick and Laura CHRISMAN (eds), 1994. Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. A Reader, New York: Columbia University Press. Introduction, pp. 1-18.
  • FANON Frantz, 1952, Black Skin, White Masks, London: Grove Press, Ch.1 “The Negro and Language” and Ch. 4 “The So-called Dependency Complex” pp. pp.1-23, and 64-88. Optional: Ch. 5 “The fact of Blackness”, pp. 89-119.
  • CHALLAND Benoit, 2017. “Citizenship and Violence in the Arab Worlds. A Historical Sketch”, in Bryan S. Turner and Jürgen Mackert (eds.), The Transformation of Citizenship, Vol. 3: Struggle, Resistance and Violence, London: Routledge, pp. 93-112.
  • Burchill et al, Theories of International Relations, chapter 12.

Session 4

Tue. - April 23, 10am-1pm

War in Ukraine: a postcolonial perspective


  •   Mälksoo, Maria. "The Postcolonial Moment in Russia’s War Against Ukraine." Journal of Genocide Research (2022): 1-11.
  •   Khromeychuk, Olga. (2022). Where is Ukraine?: How a western outlook perpetuates myths about Europe’s largest country. RSA    Journal, 27–31.
  •   Yermolenko, Volodymyr. "Atypical Post-Colonialism: Ukraine in Global Political Thought." Ukraine Analytica 02 (24) (2021): 19-       25.
  •   Strakhov, A. (2023). Russian invasion of Ukraine: civil or colonial war?. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 1-18.


  •  Pavlova, Elena. "The EU-Russia relationship through the lens of postcolonial theory." The Routledge Handbook of EU-Russia   Relations (2021): 139-148.
  •  Strazzari, Francesco, Frontiera ucraina. Guerra, geopolitiche e ordine internazionale. Il Mulino

Session 5

Wedn.-  April 24, 9am-12pm

Settler colonialism and Palestine


  •   Amoruso, F., Pappé, I., & Richter-Devroe, S. (2019). Introduction: Knowledge, power, and the “settler colonial turn” in Palestine    studies. Interventions, 21(4), 451-463.
  •   Lentin, R. (2020). Palestinian lives matter: Racialising Israeli settler-colonialism. Journal of Holy Land and Palestine         Studies, 19(2), 133-149
  •   Steinberg, G. M. (2021). Postcolonial theory and the ideology of peace studies. In Postcolonial Theory and the Arab-Israel       Conflict (pp. 109-119). Routledge.


  •  Sánchez, R., & Pita, B. (2014). Rethinking settler colonialism. American Quarterly, 66(4), 1039-1055.
  •  Stagni, F. (2023). The State of Palestine: Between Abstraction and Reality. In Palestine, Taiwan, and Western Sahara: Statehood, Sovereignty, and the International System (pp. 119-141). Rowman & Littlefield.
  •  Stagni, F. (2023). When Feminism Redefines National Liberation: How Tal’at Movement brought Feminism to the Core of the Palestinian National Liberation Struggle. Critical Sociology, 08969205231164964.’
  •  Rosenow, D. (2023). The Violence of Settler Imperialism–and Why the Concept of Coloniality Cannot Grasp It. Millennium, 03058298231202554.
  •  Montefiore, S. (2023). The decolonisation narrative is dangerous and false. The Atlantic, 27 October.

NB This is the deadline for uploading your reaction paper or short research paper on a theme that has to be agreed upon

Session 6

Fri - May 3, 9-11am

Class discussion

Session 6

Wedn,  May 8, 10am-1pm

Decolonizing IR


  • Jones, Branwen Gruffydd, ed. Decolonizing international relations. Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
  • Sharma, Ananya. "Decolonizing international relations: Confronting erasures through Indigenous knowledge systems." International Studies 58.1 (2021): 25-40
  • Picq, Manuela Lavinas. "Critics at the edge? Decolonizing methodologies in International Relations." International Political Science Review 34.4 (2013): 444-455.
  • Ling, Lily HM. "Decolonizing the international: Towards multiple emotional worlds." IT 6 (2014): 579
  • Gopal, Priyamvada. "On decolonisation and the university." Textual Practice 35.6 (2021): 873-899.


  • Bottici, Chiara and Benoit Challand: Europe aftert Eurocentrism? CrisisCritique 2020,
  • Merschel, Oliver, et al. "Global International Relations." Center for Sustainable Science Research Working Paper No (2022).
  • Sadiq, Kamal, and Gerasimos Tsourapas. "The postcolonial migration state." European Journal of International Relations 27.3 (2021): 884-912.
  • Nayak, D. M., & Selbin, E. (2013). Decentering international relations. Zed Books Ltd.. - chapter1
  • Owen, C., Heathershaw, J., & Savin, I. (2018). How postcolonial is post-Western IR? Mimicry and mētis in the international politics of Russia and Central Asia. Review of International Studies, 44(2), 279-300. doi:10.1017/S0260210517000523

Obiettivi formativi

Learning Objectives

The first objective of the course is to offer a brief critical overview of the field of International Relations through a reconsideration of the ‘shadow of empire’ and the colonial legacy. Basic knowledge of theories of international relations and the texts and authors which define the field is expected. You should have some basic knowledge of key debates and disagreements in IR theorizing. Responsibility is placed on the participant to come prepared. Specifically, coming into this course, you should already be familiar with the basic arguments and the main proponents of the main theories in International Relations; at a minimum you need to be able to explain in your own words the meaning of such labels as realism, neo-realism, liberalism, constructivism, and world-systems theory.

Most importantly, the course aims to sharpen your knowledge of the various points of contact between international relations and the postcolonial critique, through an analysis of different aspects of contemporary politics that are relevant to your research.