Course code:



M - Intermediate

Lab fee:


This course focuses on islands—geopolitically and conceptually—to consider the significance of postcolonial difference for contemporary political questions about representation, violence, exile and diaspora, climate change, poverty, racialization and sexuality.

Islands have long been imagined as sites of fantastic possibility and power, as places of refuge and respite as well as places of horror and dread. They are places imagined as home to cannibals and monsters, but also as idyllic vacations spots and safe havens for shipwrecked sailors.

Etymologically, the word island carries with it the meaning of both land and water, and islands are defined as fragments of a whole, and simultaneously as whole unto themselves, raising questions about binaries and boundaries between self and other and about the conceptual topographies of territory, land and water, thresholds between here and there.

Islands have been sites ripe for colonial ventures, understood as isolated, insular and susceptible to translation and appropriation but also as resistant, bounded and singular, fertile sites of diversity. Islands have also been significant in religious understandings of them as sites for communion with God or as final places of burial. This course will examine islands in these terms as they have been articulated in the literary imagination, in postcolonial studies and ethnography, and in political theory. Drawing on examples such as Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, J.M. Coetzee’s Foe, The Odyssey, Plato’s Atlantis, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban, Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest, as well as on ethnography in Island Studies (including classic ethnography such as Malinowski’s Trobriand Islands, and recent scholarship such as—The Island Studies Journal—and A World of Islands), we will consider questions about political representation, language and translation, religious, ethnic and sexual difference, the definition of the human, mobility and sovereignty, resistance and domination.

Students will be evaluated based on attendance, in-class participation, reading responses, one short analytical essay, and a final exploratory research project that examines Mount Desert Island, Maine, in the context of course materials.




Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.