Undergraduate Course: Commodities of Empire: Colonialism, Ecology, Culture (ENLI10413)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||This course explores the relationship between literature/culture and the material operations of the British Empire by tracing the production and circulation of different commodities as they appear in colonial and postcolonial literary texts, from the nineteenth century to the present day. Students will examine literary representations of a range of commodities, including foodstuffs, industrial crops, stimulants, textiles, minerals, and fuel, reading these items in their specific geo-political contexts and engaging with their attendant histories of human exploitation and environmental degradation. Aimed at decolonising and diversifying the curricula and pedagogy, this course will also allow students to engage critically with Edinburgh¿s participation in colonial commodity networks via a planned walking tour.
This course aims to understand how the imperialist exploitation of raw materials and commodities from colonial peripheries has given birth to the civilisational concepts of culture, etiquette, racial superiority, and imperialism in Britain. It explores how commodity exploitation and resource struggle have continued in the postcolonial world resulting in environmental and cultural conflicts between vested groups nationally and internationally. It interrogates Edinburgh¿s connections to its colonial past through a planned museum visit/walking tour across the Royal Mile. It further exposes students to exciting new tools to handle the complex topic ranging from literary theory, postcolonial studies, environmental humanities, cultural studies, history, and public humanities. Finally, it enables students to critically think about commodities around us, and their historical legacy and cultural presence in our everyday life.
The course includes relevant topics in colonial and postcolonial literature and ecocriticism. The first week introduces students to key concepts of empire, colonialism, postcolonialism, commodity, and culture with excerpts of texts by key postcolonial thinkers such as Said, Young, Williams, Lazarus, and Chaudhuri. It also uses a short essay from Dickens on ¿cigars¿ to show how we will be reading literature through their attendant historical, cultural, and socio-ecological contexts. From the second week onward, we will tackle individual commodities and their texts based on fur, opium, statues, land, potato/rice, oil, water and others. The list of texts, given below, will show the extent and breadth of the course expanding upon the world-literary contexts of commodities and colonialism and suggesting how postcolonialism is as much a historical discourse as it is global, every day, and contemporary. The course also includes a walking tour in the fifth week through which students will be able to perceive and contextualise the production of culture and colonialist values in our contemporary world and learn to develop critical frameworks to understand them in the global postcolonial context.
Students will be taught through seminar discussion of these texts and their topics which range from race, slavery, gender, sexual violence, nonhuman animals, built environment, dark tourism, disability, oil corporatism, decolonisation, and others. They will also take a walking tour to better inform and understand the contemporary cultural contexts of consumption of colonialist values in the metropolises of empire. They will be further taught through assignments and verbal feedback. They will be asked to submit a 2500-word essay (40%) in the midterm and receive thorough feedback on them and submit a 3000-word (60%) final essay. Students will also do 7 mins class presentations engaging with key texts and topics and receive feedback from their peers and the tutor. These presentations will help streamline their thoughts and ideas for the assigned tasks.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
plus 1 hour Autonomous Learning Group per week, at time to be arranged.
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
40% 2,500 word mid-semester coursework essay
60% 3,000 word final essay
||Written feedback will be provided on each assignment, and additional verbal feedback will be available from the course organiser on request.¿
Students will also receive feedback from peers and the tutor on their weekly unassessed class presentations.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- conceptualise critically how resource extraction and commodity circulation from the periphery to the metropole and vice versa have shaped imperial and postcolonial societies and cultures.
- explain, employ, and analyse¿advanced critical approaches to the study of colonial and postcolonial literatures (including new approaches from the environmental humanities, world-systems theory, postcolonial ecology, cultural anthropology, object theory, and development economics).
- synthesise, summarize, and analyse¿practical and contemporary knowledge of Edinburgh¿s colonial legacies through planned museum/walking tours and learn about different methods of producing cultural knowledge.
- develop appropriate methodologies to address topics¿relating to race, class, capitalism, urbanity, public culture and decolonisation, thereby enhancing employability opportunities in academia and cognate sectors.
Dickens, ¿Cigars¿, All the Year Round (1865)
Eliza Keary, 'The Little Sealskin',¿(1874); Rose Terry Cooke, 'A Sealskin Jacket: A Story for Girls' (1882); Rudyard Kipling, 'The White Seal',¿The Jungle Book¿(1894)
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (2008)
Tom Murphy, Famine (1977)
Venessa Kisuule, ¿Hollow¿ (2020); Walking Trip across the Royal Mile
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (1988)
Lynn Nottage: Ruined (2009)
Helon Habila,¿Oil on Water¿(London: Penguin, 2011).
Rita Wong, undercurrent (2015)
Leila Aboulela, ¿The Museum¿ (1999)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Knowledge and Understanding: Students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of key topics in contemporary literary cultural and socio-political public debates¿of empire, decolonisation, slavery, sexual violence, commodities, literary consumption, and others.
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: In their work for formative class presentation and discussion and summative assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material.¿Through taking part in a walking tour, they will further note the ¿production¿ of capitalist and colonial cultural values through triumphalist gestures of statues of people who may have encouraged slavery and colonialism thereby suggesting a complicated heritage of the postimperial city. These exercises will be key to developing important graduate attributes of critical thinking, creative writing, and journalistic skills.
Generic Cognitive Skills: Through group work and completing assessed essays, students will have practiced identifying, designing, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline.¿By discussing key ¿public facing¿ topics and participating in the walking trip, they will also develop cognitive skills of understanding public debates as well as of writing for the public.
Communication: Through participating in class presentation and group discussions as well as writing two formally assessed tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists.¿¿
Autonomy and Working with Others: Students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.¿
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||one 2-hour Seminar per week (one week = walking tour);
one 1-hour Autonomous Learning Group per week (at time to be arranged)
|Keywords||Commodities; raw material; extraction; imperialism; anti-colonialism; postcolonialism; literature;
|Course organiser||Dr Sourit Bhattacharya
Tel: (0131 6)50 3611
|Course secretary||Ms June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620