Human, Social, and Political Sciences Tripos (2018-2019)

The Human, Social, Political Sciences (HSPS) Cambridge undergraduate degree purports to offer students a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of the issues that matter in our world. In large part due the pressure of undergraduate and postgraduate students, efforts have been made to more closely align the undergraduate programme with its stated aims by decolonising the Sociology, Politics, International Relations and Anthropology curricula. Nonetheless, there remain important shortfalls in the progress made by each department. Moreover, there is increasingly a need to critically interrogate what decolonization means in the context of the University of Cambridge – an institution founded on racist, sexist, classist and ableist oppression; to reflect on what it takes to pursue a truly decolonized education; and to prevent the neoliberal university from transforming “decolonization” itself into a box to be ticked off through the “inclusion” of “diverse” names, rather than the rectification of epistemic injustice.

When we speak of decolonization, we are always referring to a material history, with material consequences; indeed, decolonization has historically evoked images of liberation from colonial rule on the level of the nation-state. In the context of academic learning, decolonization may be understood as the intellectually rigorous and honest acknowledgement and recognition of the histories of violence that underlie present systems of power and knowledge. Among its key aims is a disentanglement from, and decentering of, hegemonic epistemologies and ways of knowing. This is of real-world significance, as the production of knowledge is always a political process, with tangible implications for relations of power. Nowhere is this clearer than at Cambridge, where the naturalisation of inequality has always been necessary to train elites to perpetuate their oppressive rule at home, or to justify their racist imperialism abroad.

What follows is a general list of important decolonial texts, a brief history of decolonization of HSPS at Cambridge, some advice on how to tackle the course, and most importantly, a set of decolonial reading lists for POL1, POL2, SOC1, and SAN1 based on the 2018-2019 reading lists. Compiled by recent graduates and current students, the lists aim to provide a set of critical perspectives with which incoming first year students can re-situate the canonical (“set”) texts and approaches that they will be expected to read, know, and regurgitate over the course of the academic year, and in the final exam. The aim of this document is not to remove authors and texts, but to equip students with the tools to critically engage with them; it is by no means exhaustive, nor representative of all of our beliefs, but rather intended to be the starting point of further inquiry. As a practical resource, this document is intended to be used by students in the interim as various departments put into place initiatives to widen the remit of their first year introductory courses; it is, however, a temporary salve that will only be sustainable if the university also hires academics of colour, working class, queer and LGBT+, disabled, women scholars and fully invests in maximizing access for students from marginalized backgrounds.

HSPS graduates and current students

September 2018 (Last updated 12.9.2018)

*If you have any additional suggestions, send them in here!

General recommendations: What is decolonization?


  • Samir Amin, 1989 [2009 ed], Eurocentrism
  • Noam Chomsky, 1967, The Responsibility of Intellectuals
  • Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality
  • bell hooks, 1984, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.
  • Paulo Freire, 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 
  • 'How Propaganda Works' by Jason Stanley
  • Ashis Nandy, 'The Intimate Enemy: Loss & Recovery of Self Under Colonialism', 'Science, Hegemony, and Violence: A Requiem for Modernity'
  • Mohamed Jean Veneuse, Anarca-Islam
  • Cindy Milstein (ed.), Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism
  • The New Inquiry, A Time for Treason

On histories of resistance:

Decolonizing the university:

  • Kimberlé W. Crenshaw et al., 1995, Introduction to Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, xiii-xxxii.
  • bell hooks, 1994, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom.
  • Achille Mbembe, 2016, "Decolonizing the university: New directions". Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15.1 (2016): 29-45.
  • Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial, Kerem Nişancıoğlu (eds.), Decolonising the University, Pluto Books.
  • Various at South African universities (2016)


Decolonization at Cambridge

There is a long history of organizing around decolonisation in Cambridge. From the early efforts to get Fanon onto the POL1 reading list, to the #SmutsMustFall campaign (inspired by the Oxford #RhodesMustFall campaign), the campaign to repatriate the Benin bronze cockerel at Jesus College, and the 2016-7 English postcolonial seminar group’s open letter to decolonize the English faculty, students have been critically engaging with the history of the institution for years. The racist targeting of black student activists and academics of colour by the sensationalist right-wing media in 2017-8 had the effect of galvanising students and faculty to strive to make decolonisation a permanent agenda item in many departments across the university.

We are indebted to the students who have come before us for creating space for discussions on decolonisation. We hope that this resource continues their legacy by providing future students with the resources to continue the struggle for a liberated university. We point to the changes made within the topics on politics and violence and Tocqueville in POL1 as examples of the ways in which agitation and mobilization has resulted in real change on the level of curricula.

2015-2016 POL1 reading list

2016-2017 POL1 reading list

2018-2019 POL1 reading list


Cambridge instills in us a particular (and neoliberal) way of measuring academic achievement, based on exam scores and rankings. However, learning is, in and of itself, a political act, one that can embody liberatory values. Insofar as decolonisation pivots on the question of learning itself, it concerns most significantly not merely what we learn, but how we learn. It is with this in mind that we have provided advice about how you can approach your learning experience at Cambridge:

  • Collaborative learning: Students in the most recent graduating class (2017-8) created a large Facebook group chat and Google Drive to share information and essays from different subjects. This was particularly helpful given the disparity in resources between colleges, as students could share what notes they had, learn from each other, and support one another in stressful situations. Cambridge tries to individualise your learning - but we are better off working collectively.

  • Ask questions: It can be very intimidating to ask questions and actively challenge your lecturers, supervisors, Directors of Study, and tutors. But if you feel like you have something to say, say it – if not just for yourself, then also for the many others in the room who may have the same question, or who may learn something important from what you ask.

  • Fill in course evaluations: Course evaluations usually happen at the end of a course or lecture series. If you notice anything that you would want to have changed or added, remember to suggest them in the evaluations, as that is where faculties look most closely for student feedback, and they take these forms seriously.

  • Seek solidarity: If you feel vulnerable to marginalisation (e.g., because of your gender, creed, class or disability), the academic environment at Cambridge may at times feel suffocating, even daunting. You may walk around carrying a strange awareness of the ways in which the institution, even the city itself, were not built for you – this knowledge may weigh down on you, and make you feel alone. Know that this is not your fault. Know that there is a place for you here, and that people like you have thrived in this institution, reclaiming and making space for themselves. Join the CUSU Women’s Campaign, CUSU BME Campaign, FLY Cambridge, CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign, Class Act – find groups of people who understand you. Know that you are not alone!

POL 1: The modern state and its alternatives

POL1 is divided into three parts. The first seeks to define “the modern state [as] the predominant basis on which political authority and power are constructed across the world today to try to avoid disorder”; the second traces the history and critiques of representative democracy as the preeminent form of the modern state today; and the third examines “the coherence and persuasiveness of a number of political critiques of the modern state and representative democracy and the nature of disagreement in politics.” Each of these parts includes a number of set texts that are deemed essential to an understanding of the thematic content. In order to achieve a high mark, candidates are expected firstly to have an in-depth knowledge of the arguments of the texts in question, and secondly to supplement (rather than critically evaluate, critique or assess) this knowledge with historical secondary literature.

The paper guide includes the following disclaimer about the structure of the course: “These texts are not there to be analysed as texts per se but to be considered for the arguments they contain. We have chosen these texts for this paper not because they represent a canon but because they engage with some of the fundamental questions of modern politics.” We appreciate the attention that has been given to addressing the fact that the texts taught in POL1 are not meant to be exhaustive and representative of global political thought. We offer this reading list as a respectful parallel resource for students who are interested in understanding what lies beneath the surface of what is conventionally seen as “valuable” and “important” knowledge. Decolonization is not merely about the inclusion of authors from the Global South; that is to say, it is not merely, or even primarily, about content. Rather, decolonisation is above all a certain approach to learning. It is about de-centering and de-stabilizing the idea of a singularly “modern” politics, and upholding an ethic of intellectual integrity and honesty in studying and evaluating the authors of the established canon, to the end of understanding the reasons why relations of power political, power intellectual, power cultural, and power moral (in Edward Said’s formulation) have been, and continue to be, the way that they are. The ultimate aim is to introduce new and liberatory ways of seeing, knowing, and being.

General recommendations:

  • Susan Buck-Morss, ‘Hegel and Haiti’, Critical Inquiry, 26:4 (2000), pp.821-865 [on the erasure of race in the history of political thought]
  • See also the full book: Buck-Morss (2009) Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Political Philosophy focused
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel, 1983. Historical Capitalism. London: Verso [1996 Ed]. See especially the first chapter, The Commodification of Everything: Production of Capital.
  • Anievas, Alexander and Kerem Nişancıoğlu, 2015. How the West Came to Rule: the Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism. London: Pluto Press
  • Paul Gilroy, 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness
  • Partha Chatterjee, 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories.
  • Ranajit Guha, 1997. Dominance without Hegemony.
  • Nancy Leys Stepan, 1998. Race, Gender, Science and Citizenship. Gender and History 10 (1): 26-52.
  • Anderson, Benedict, 2007. Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination. London: Verso

Specific recommendations:

1-2 Hobbes and the problem of order | Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), parts I and II:

  • Problems with the Contract
  • Pateman, C. 1988. The Sexual Contract. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Mills, C. W. 1997. The Racial Contract. Ithaca, NY.: Cornell University Press
  • People of the Democratic Autonomous Regions of Rojava, 2014. The Social Contract, in Stateless Democracy: New World Academy Reader #5: pp131-158.
  • Goldberg, D.T. 2002. The Racial State. Cambridge: Blackwell.
  • ‘Order’ for Who? See 9-10 Fanon and the imperial modern state below


2-3 Constant and modern liberty | Benjamin Constant, ‘On the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns,’ AND ‘Principles of politics applicable to all representative governments’ in Constant: political writings, ed. Biancamaria Fontana (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988);

  • Marcel Gauchet, ‘Liberalism’s Lucid Illusion’, in H. Rosenblatt (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Constant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 23-46 (E)
  • Jeremy Jennings ‘Constitutional Liberalism in France’, in ‘The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Political Thought’, eds. Gareth Stedman Jones and Gregory Claeys (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 349-373
  • Hesse, Barnor, 2014. Escaping Liberty: Western Hegemony, Black Fugitivity. Political Theory 42(3): 288-313.
  • On liberalism generally:
  • Losurdo, Domenico, 2011. Liberalism A Counter-History. London: Verso. See particularly Ch2: Liberalism and Racial Slavery: A Unique Twin Birth, Ch5: The Revolution in France and San Domingo
  • Mills, Charles W., 2008. Racial Liberalism, PMLA. 123(5)
  • Raymond Geuss, 2002,  “Liberalism and its discontents”
  • John Gray, The Two Faces of Liberalism
  • Edmund Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea
  • Katrina Forrester, “Liberalism Doesn’t Start With Liberty”
  • Duncan Bell, 2014,  “What is Liberalism”
  • "Superior People: the Narrowness of Liberalism from Mill to Rawls", The Times Literary Supplement, 25 Feb (1994).


3-4 Weber and political leadership | Max Weber, “The profession and vocation of politics,” in Weber: political writings, ed. Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 309-369

  • Possible also: Gorz, André. 1989. Critique of Economic Reason. London: Verso
  • Öcalan, Abdullah, 2011. Democratic Confederalism [summary on pp32-34]
  • Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, 2017. Assembly. Oxford: OUP. See generally Part I: The Leadership Problem and Ch8: Weber in Reverse.
  • Wright EO (2002) The shadow of exploitation in Weber’s class analysis. American Sociological Review: 832–853;
  • Ashcraft R (1972) Marx and Weber on Liberalism as Bourgeois Ideology. Comparative Studies in Society and History 14(2): 130–168.

5-6 Schmitt and the nature of the political | Carl Schmitt, The concept of the political, trans. George Schwab, with a foreword by Tracy B. Strong (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996)

  • Hussain (2003), The Jurisprudence of Emergency
  • Butler, Judith and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (2007) Who Sings the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. Oxford: Seagull Books

7-8 Hayek and economic liberty | Friedrich Hayek, The road to serfdom (London: Routledge, 1986)

Hayek and the Chilean dictatorship

  • Farrant, A., McPhail E., and Berger, S. 2012. ‘Preventing the "Abuses" of Democracy: Hayek, the "Military Usurper" and Transitional Dictatorship in Chile?’. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 71 (3): pp. 513-538
  • Caldwell, B. and Montes, L. 2014. “Friedrich Hayek and his Visits to Chile”. The Review of Austrian Economics, 28 (3). pp. 261-309

Hayek and neoliberalism

  • Naomi Klein. 2007. The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin Group
  • Amadae, S.M., 2003. Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins Of Rational Choice Liberalism. Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press
  • MacLean, N. 2017. Democracy in Chains. New York, NY.: Viking Press
  • Harvey, D. 2005. “Chapter 1: Freedom’s Just Another Word…”. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. 5-63. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Gamble, A. 1996. Hayek: The Iron Cage of Liberty. Cambridge: Polity Press. [link to Ch. 3 “Markets”]


9-10 Fanon and the imperial modern state | Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, new edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 2001).

N.B. 2018-2019 is the first year that Fanon will be taught as an independent topic. Previously, he was studied alongside Hannah Arendt, focusing on violence in politics. The 2018-2019 topic addresses the legacy of imperialism and colonialism on the history of the modern state.

  • Nash, Andrew (2002) Third Worldism. African Sociological Review. 7(1)
  • See also:
  • Blautt, J.M., 1993. The Colonizer's Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai, 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed. See Ch1: Imperialism, History, Writing, and Theory
  • Alavi, H., 1972. The State in Post- Colonial Societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh. New Left Review, I(74), pp. 59-82.
  • Haag, D., 2011. Mechanisms of Neo-colonialism: Current French and British influence in Cameroon and Ghana, Barcelona: Institut Català Internacional per la Pau


13-14 The creation of the American federal republic | James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist with letters of ‘Brutus’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 1, 10, 14, 37-39, 47-48 51, 57-58, 63, 78 AND Brutus, “Letters” in James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist with letters of ‘Brutus’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) I-VII and XI.

15-16 Democratic society and democratic adaptability | Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (London: Fontana Press, 1994 [orig 1835]): Vol 1, part I, chs 3-6 part II, chs. 1, 4, 6-9; Vol. 2, part II, chs. 1, 5-9, 13 part III, 21- 26 part IV, chs. 1-8.

N.B. 2018-2019 is the first year that Tocqueville’s chapter on ‘The Probable Future of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States’ has been added to the set text, and that explicit instructions have been made that students can draw on Tocqueville’s arguments about American racial politics and democracy in assessing whether democracy is a singularly adaptable form of politics. It is also the first year that a separate section on secondary readings pertaining to slavery and race have been included.

  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903) The Souls of Black Folk. Oxford: OUP [2007 paperback ed.]
  • See also: Du Bois, W.E.B., 1935. Black Reconstruction. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company
  • Malcolm X, 1964. The Black Revolution, in Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements. George Breitman (ed). New York: Grove Press
  • Seale, Bobby, 1970. Party Programs: Serving the People, in Seize the Time: The Story of The Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton.
  • See also Tracey, James, 2012. Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times. New York: Melville House Publishers


17-18 Representative democracy and the competitive struggle for power | Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, socialism and democracy (London: Routledge, 1994), part iv.

  • Medearis, J. 1997. ‘Schumpeter, the New Deal and Democracy’, American Political Science Review. 91, pp. 819–32
  • Amin S. 2011. “The Democratic Fraud and the Universalist Alternative.” Monthly Review 63(5)
  • Purcell, E. 1973. The Crisis of Democratic Theory. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky
  • Luxemburg, Rosa, 1908. Reform or Revolution?. Chicago: Haymarket Books [2008 English Ed.]
  • Reinert, Hugo and Erik S. Reinert. 2006. Creative Destruction in Economics: Nietzsche, Sombart, Schumpeter. In: Backhaus J.G., Drechsler W. (eds) Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), vol 3. Springer, Boston, MA
  • Makes the argument that Schumpeter and others drew on Indian philosophy for their theorising - more about economics than politics though, but similar ideas


19-20 Parties and voters: democracy’s bads or the democratic solution to politics? | Nancy Rosenblum, On the side of angels: an appreciation of parties and partisanship (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), chapters 3, 7-9 and conclusion AND Bryan Caplan, The myth of the rational voter: why democracies choose bad policies, new edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2008), introduction, and chapters 1-2, 4-7        

  • Holston, James, 2008. Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
  • Brown, Julian, 2015. South Africa's Insurgent Citizens: On Dissent and the Possibility of Politics. London: Zed Books


21-22 Representative democracy and material prosperity | Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why nations fail: the origins of power, prosperity and poverty (London: Profile 2013).

  • Rodney, Walter (1972) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press (1982 ed.)
  • See the Dependency Theory and World Systems Theory schools of International Political Economy (they don’t always speak specifically to representative democracy, but they’re important in challenging the idea that each polity/country has its own nice independent development and depending on how that goes, the politics/economics link internally)
  • Block, F. & Evans, P. (2005). “The State and the Economy”. The Handbook of Economic Sociology. Eds. Smelser, N. J. & Swedberg, R. (pp. 505-526). Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Evans, P. (1979). “Imperialism, Dependency, and Dependent Development”. Dependent Development: The Alliance of Multinational, State, and Local Capital in Brazil (pp. 14-54). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Hamilton, Lawrence. (2016) Empire and Economics: Decolonising Colonialism and Its Legacies in Africa. Theoria 63(147)


23-24 Representative democracy and the class distribution of wealth | Martin Gilens, Affluence and influence: economic inequality and political power in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2012)

  • Perhaps pair with something close to home: Norfield, Tony, 2017. The City: London and the Global Power of Finance.
  • Note: these provide contemporary analyses of the political economy of imperialism - they do not explicitly link to representative democracy, but are closely related


25-26 Communism | Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The communist manifesto, edited by Gareth Stedman-Jones (Harmondsworth: Penguin 2004).

  • Jani, Pranav (2002) Karl Marx, Eurocentrism, and the 1857 Revolt in British India. Marxism, Modernity, and Postcolonial Studies, Crystal Bartolovich and Neil Lazarus (eds). Cambridge: CUP
  • Kumar, Ashutosh (1992) Marx and Engels on India. Indian Journal of Political Science. 53(4)
  • Chibber, Vivek, 2013. Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. London: Verso
  • Federici, Silvia, 2012. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. Oakland, CA: PM Press. See part II on global dynamics, and part III on social reproduction
  • Davies, Carole Boyce, 2008. Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. Duke University Press.
  • Zhong, Xueping, Wang Zheng, Bai Di, 2001. Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press
  • Prashad, Vijay (2013) Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. London: Verso.
  • Prashad, Vijay (2007) The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World. New York, NY: The New Press
  • Prashad, Vijay (2017) Red October: The Russian Revolution and the Communist Horizon (New Delhi: LeftWord Books)
  • Prashad, Vijay (2017) Red Star Over the Third World (New Delhi: LeftWord Books).
  • Rodney, Walter, 2018. The Russian Revolution: a View from the Third World. Robin D. G. Kelley and Jesse Benjamin (Eds.). London: Verso.

27-28 Self-Rule | M.K. Gandhi, ‘Hind swaraj’ in Hind swaraj and other writings, ed. by Anthony Parel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • Luxemburg, Rosa, 1909. The National Question, in The National Question - Selected Writings by Rosa Luxemburg. New York: Monthly Review Press
  • Lenin, V.I., 1913. Theses on the National Question, in Lenin Collected Works. Moscow: Progress Publishers         
  • South African Communist Party, 1928. The South African Question. Resolution on ‘The South African Question’ adopted by the Executive Committee of the Communist International following the Sixth Comintern congress
  • Löwy, Michael, 1976. Marxists and the National Question. New Left Review. I(96)
  • African National Congress, 1987. Apartheid South Africa: Colonialism of a Special Type.
  • Mbah, Sam and I.E. lgariwey, 1997. African Anarchism: The History of a Movement. Tucson, Arizona: See Sharp Press. See particularly Ch7: Anarchism’s Future in Africa, section on Anarchism and the National Question
  • Webster, Edward and Karin Pampallis, 2017. The Unresolved National Question in South Africa: Left thought under apartheid. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.


29-30 Human agency and political freedom | Hannah Arendt, The human condition, second edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)

N.B. 2018-2019 is the first year that this set text by Hannah Arendt is being taught as an independent topic. Previously, Arendt’s On Violence was studied alongside Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature (2015-2016) and Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, in the first section of the paper. Topic 29-30 used to be Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, under the topic heading “Morality as Historical Creation”.

  • Mantena, Karuna (2010) Genealogies of Catastrophe: Arendt on the Logic and Legacy of Imperialism. In Politics in Dark Times Encounters with Hannah Arendt. Seyla Benhabib (ed). Cambridge: CUP
  • Callinicos, Alex, 2004. Making History: Agency, Structure and Change in Social Theory. Leiden: Brill
  • Neocosmos, Michael, 2016. Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward A Theory Of Emancipatory Politics. Johannesburg: Wits University Press
  • Roberts, Neil, 2015. Freedom as Marronage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Roberts, Neil, 2017. Theorizing Freedom, Radicalizing the Black Radical Tradition: On Freedom as Marronage Between Past and Future. Theory & Event, 20(1): 212-230

31-32 The persistence of politics | Jonathan Haidt, Why good people are divided by politics and religion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2013).

  • Wallerstein, Immanuel, 1983. Historical Capitalism. London: Verso [1996 Ed]. See especially conclusion: On Progress and Transitions p95-110
  • Smith, John, 2016. Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. New York: Monthly Review.
  • On Jonathan Haidt and Moral Foundations Theory
  • On Steven Pinker and the ‘safest point in history’ thesis:
  • C21st violence
  • Mary Kaldor, 1998. New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era. Polity Press [2012 ed.]
  • State violence

POL2: International Conflict, Order, and Justice

POL2 was previously primarily dedicated to the history of international relations theory from the Treaty of Westphalia up to the Cold War. In 2015-2016, the course was completely overhauled to focus on understanding global power relations and how they shaped the international world order. We believe that the course as it stands and has developed is a good example of the kind of progressive and constructive approach to knowledge production about politics and international relations that can and should be propounded in academic institutions. We offer this list of general recommendations to further the ability of students to undertake decolonial thinking in the field of international relations.


  • For a summary of Wallerstein’s core views, see Wallerstein, Immanuel, 1983. Historical Capitalism. London: Verso [1996 Ed].
  • Regional complexities
  • Imperialism today
  • Amin, S. (2015). “Contemporary Imperialism”, Monthly Review 67(3)
  • Amin, S. (2003). Obsolescent Capitalism: Contemporary Politics and Global Disorder (trans. Patrick Camiller), London: Zed Books
  • Smith, John, 2016. Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. New York: Monthly Review.
  • Disciplinary reflections
  • See the Decolonising Politics and IR reading list for more on conflict/civil war/refugees/migration/peacebuilding/reconciliation/development/language/education, as well as this discussion.
  • Anievas, Alexander; Nivi Manchanda and Robbie Shilliam (Eds), 2015. Race and racism in international relations : confronting the global colour line, Abingdon, Ox: Routledge
  • Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015
  • (See review: Ahmad, Mahvish, 2018. The Racial Origins of a Discipline. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography)
  • Long, David, and Brian C. Schmidt, eds. Imperialism and internationalism in the discipline of international relations. SUNY Press, 2005.
  • (See review: Bell, D. (2005). Race and Empire: The Origins of International Relations. International Studies Review, 7(4), 633-635.)
  • Sankaran Krishna, 'Decolonizing International Relations'
  • Joseph Stiglitz, 'Globalization & its Discontents'
  • Basil Davidson, 'The Black Man's Burden: Africa & the Curse of the Nation-state'
  • Siba N Grovogui, 'Sovereigns, Quasi sovereigns, and Africans: Race & Self-determination in International Law'
  • CK Raju & Vinay Lal, 'Is Science Western in Origin?'
  • Amedeo Policante, 'The Pirate Myth: Genealogies of an Imperial Concept'
  • Robert Vitalis, 'White World Order, Black Power Politics'

Lecture 21: Extended Reading List

Note: in 2017-18, Lecture 21 was themed around “Alternatives to Modern Sovereignty – Anarchists to ISIS”. Although the lectures were broader, the reading list was almost exclusively about the religious-authoritarian approach of Daesh/IS. To contrast against this, the reading list below was compiled to give an introduction to the Zapatistas (Mexico) and the women’s revolution in Rojava (Northern Syria).

On Rojava (autonomous zone in northern Syria, directly in conflict with ISIS):

Statements from the autonomous zone:


Political Theory influencing the revolution:


Reflections on the revolution:


On the Zapatistas (group/philosophy of the autonomous zones in Chiapas, South-East Mexico):

Statements from the autonomous zone:


Analysis from observers:




  • John Pilger
  • Citations-Needed Podcast
  • 02: The North Korea Memory Hole / 35: The Total Blackout of the Korean Left
  • 04: Iran – The Root of All Evil / 14: The Iran Deal Protection Racket
  • 07: BDS & the Moral Narratives of Colonisation
  • 08: The Human Rights Concern Troll Industrial Complex / 25: The Banality of CIA-Curated Definitions of ‘Democracy’
  • 12: The New Atheists – Celebrity Crusaders for Empire
  • 13: Always Stumbling US Empire / 17: Whitewashing America’s Role in Yemen
  • 28-29: The Asymptotic ‘Two State Solution’ (Parts I & II)

SOC1: Introduction to Sociology: Modern Societies I

SOC1 is divided into two parts. The first seeks to familiarise students with the sociological thought of four men: Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and W.E.B. Du Bois; the second focuses on understanding social inequalities, power, and society. It is important to note that W.E.B. Du Bois was added to section 1 of SOC1 in the 2018-2019 academic year; previously, the focus of this section was simply on Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. In Section 2, the topic Combined Power: Empire and Resistance was added; additionally, in each of the sub-topics, updated readings pertaining to class, ‘race’, ethnicity, racism, gender, sexuality (specifically the replacement of transphobic second wave ‘radical feminist’ texts), intersectionality, global inequality were added.

The Department of Sociology has been instrumental in pushing decolonisation of the curriculum across the university. We have compiled a list of further readings that may be helpful to incoming undergraduates who seek to further situate and decenter the canon. We maintain that decolonization necessarily is a destabilizing process; it requires constant interrogation of our existing knowledge and a continuous uncovering of the silences that have for so long precluded rigorous criticism of the effects of colonialism, imperialism, and racism within the academy.

General resources:

Social theory:

  • *Go, Julian, 2016. Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory. Oxford: OUP.
  • Chatterjee
  • Chatterjee, Partha. Empire and Nation Selected Essays. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
  • Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Mbembe
  • Mbembe, Dubois, and Dubois, Laurent. Critique of Black Reason. John Hope Franklin Center Book. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
  • Mbembe, J.-A., and Libby. Meintjes. "Necropolitics." Public Culture 15. 1 (2003): 11- 40.
  • Moten
  • Moten, Fred. In the break: The aesthetics of the Black radical tradition. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
  • Moten, Fred. "The case of blackness." Criticism 50.2 (2008): 177-218.
  • Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, AK Press

Sociological History / Historical Sociology:

  • Anievas & Matin (eds). 2016. Historical Sociology and World History: Uneven and Combined Development over the Longue Durée. London: Rowman & Littlefield
  • Potter, SJ and Saha, J (2015) Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire. Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16 (1)
  • Go, Julian and George Lawson (2017) Global Historical Sociology. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Sethi, Rumina, (2011) The Politics of Postcolonialism: Empire, Nation, and Resistance. London: Pluto Press. See specifically Ch1: Postcolonialism and its Discontents: an Introduction.

Social inequalities:

Power and society:

  • Lois McNay, 1992, Foucault and Feminism.
  • Heiner, Brady Thomas, 2007. Foucault and the Black Panthers. City 11(3): 313-356
  • Butler, J. (2009). Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? Verso.

State formation:

  • Khaldun, Ibn, 1377. The Muqaddimah
  • Alatas,  Syed Farid, 2014. Applying Ibn Khaldun: The recovery of a lost tradition in sociology. London: Routledge. Chapter 2: Ibn Khaldun’s theory of state formation.
  • Dirik, Dilar, 2016. “Rojava: Building Democracy Without the State”, ROAR Mag. 18 March 2016


  • Ross, Dorothy. 2003. ‘Changing Contours of The Social Science Disciplines’. In The Cambridge History of Science: Vol. 7 The Modern Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 203-237

SAN1: Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

SAN1 aims to provide students with an introduction to the subject of social anthropology. It is comprised of three parts: the study of two core ethnographies, the comparative study of social institutions, and a historical overview of the discipline.

Decolonising social anthropology is a curious endeavour. On the one hand, the discipline is quite literally a product of Europe’s colonial expansion. On the other hand, the discipline has developed into one that is deeply reflexive and capable of questioning its own methods and theoretical traditions. Decolonisation is as much about processes and methods as it is about content - it is heartening to see more diverse voices being incorporated in the SAN1 curriculum over the past year, but how we choose to use the many available ethnographic texts in each of our own essays is also a part of the project.

The list below does not encompass even an overview of decolonial works. It simply provides some entry points through which you may begin exploring how one can study anthropology in ways that are attentive of its colonial roots while being constructive in shaping a more inclusive and truthful disciplinary future.

General readings:

  • Dennis Porter, 1983 ‘Orientalism and its Problems’
  • Meyda Yegenoglu, 1998, Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism
  • Patrick Wolfe, 1999, Settler-Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Events
  • “Decolonizing Anthropology” on Savage Minds
  • Nyamnjoh, Francis B. ‘Blinded by Sight: Divining the Future of Anthropology in Africa’, Africa Spectrum 47, no. 2-3 (2012): 63-92
  • Anderson, K. & Jack, D. 1991. Learning to listen. In S. Gluck & D. Patai, eds. Women’s Words. London: Routledge, pp. 11–26.
  • Lewis, D. 2010. Discursive Challenges for African Feminisms. In A. A. Ampofo & S. Arnfred, eds. African Feminist Politics of Knowledge: Tensions, Challenges, Possibilities. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.
  • Ribeiro, G.L. & Escobar, A. eds. 2006. World Anthropologies: Disciplinary Transformations Within Systems of Power. Oxford: Berg.
  • Shepherd, N. 2003. “When the Hand that Holds the Trowel is Black...”: Disciplinary Practices of Self-Representation and the Issue of “Native” Labour in Archaeology. Journal of Social Archaeology, 3(3): 334–352.

Theoretical texts:

  • Alcoff, Linda Martín. "Towards a phenomenology of racial embodiment." Radical Philosophy 95 (1999): 15-26.
  • Asad
  • Asad, Talal. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1973.
  • Asad, Talal. Formations of the secular: Christianity, Islam, modernity. Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • Comaroffs
  • Comaroff, John L., and Jean Comaroff, eds. Civil society and the political imagination in Africa: Critical perspectives. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. "Ethnography on an awkward scale: Postcolonial anthropology and the violence of abstraction." Ethnography 4.2 (2003): 147-179.
  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff, eds. Law and Disorder in the Postcolony. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. "Occult economies and the violence of abstraction: notes from the South African postcolony." American ethnologist 26.2 (1999): 279-303.
  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa. London: Routledge, 2015. 
  • Kuehnast, K. (1992). “Visual imperialism and the export of prejudice: an exploration of ethnographic film”. Film as Ethnography. Eds. Crawford, P. & Turton, D. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Timothy Mitchell, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect.” The Anthropology of the State: A Reader. Ed. Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta. Malden: Blackwell, 2006. 169-86.
  • MacGaffey, Wyatt. "Concepts of race in the historicography of Northeast Africa." The Journal of African History 7.1 (1966):1-17.
  • Mafeje
  • Mafeje, Archie. "On the articulation of modes of production." Journal of Southern African Studies 8.1 (1981): 123-138.
  • Mafeje, Archie. "The ideology of ‘tribalism’." The journal of modern African studies 9.2 (1971): 253-261.
  • Mafeje, Archie. "The problem of anthropology in historical perspective: An inquiry into the growth of the social sciences." Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines 10.2 (1976): 307-333.
  • Mafeje, Archie. The Theory and Ethnography of African Social Formations: The Case of the Interlacustrine Kingdoms. Dakar: CODESRIA, 1991.
  • Mafeje, Archie. "Who are the Makers and Objects of Anthropology? A critical comment on Sally Falk Moore’s Anthropology and Africa." African Sociological Review/Revue Africaine de Sociologie (1997): 1-15.
  • Pierre
  • Pierre, Jemima. "Black immigrants in the United States and the ‘cultural narratives’ of ethnicity." Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 11.2 (2004): 141-170.
  • Pierre, Jemima. "Interrogating ‘Blackness’: Race and Identityformation in the African Diaspora." Transforming Anthropology 11.1 (2002): 51-53.
  • Pierre, Jemima. Race across the Atlantic: mapping racialization in Africa and the African diaspora. Diss. University of Texas, 2002.
  • Pierre, Jemima. The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago, 2013.
  • Scott, David. "Colonial Governmentality." Social Text 43.43 (1995): 191-220.
  • Vincent Crapanzano, 1986, “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (eds. Clifford and Marcus). [“All too often, the ethnographer forgets that the native cannot abide someone reading over his shoulder. If he does not close his book, he will cast his shadow over it.” - on Clifford Geertz]
  • Viveiros de Castro - Amerindian perspectivism

Ethnographic texts:

  • Abu-Lughod
  • Lila Abu-Lughod, 2002, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others”
  • Lila Abu-Lughod, 1986, Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society.
  • Apter, A. (2002) “On Imperial Spectacle: The Dialectics of Seeing in Colonial Nigeria”. Comparative Studies in Society and History 44(3), pp. 564-596.
  • Campbell, H. (2015). Escaping identity: border zones as places of evasion and cultural reinvention. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 21(2), 296-312.
  • Flynn, D. K. (1997). “We are the border”: identity, exchange, and the state along the Bénin‐Nigeria border. American Ethnologist, 24(2), 311-330.
  • Mahmood, S. (2011). Politics of piety: The Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Princeton University Press.
  • Jaffe, R. (2013). The hybrid state: Crime and citizenship in urban Jamaica. American Ethnologist, 40(4), 734-748.
  • Jones, R. (2009). Agents of exception: border security and the marginalization of Muslims in India. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27(5), 879-897.
  • Poole, D. (1997) Vision, Race, and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Salter, M. B. (2006). The global visa regime and the political technologies of the international self: Borders, bodies, biopolitics. Alternatives, 31(2), 167-189.
  • Sigona, N. (2015). Campzenship: Reimagining the camp as a social and political space. Citizenship Studies, 19(1), 1-15.