Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

The course considers the definition of the human by bringing together the field of postcolonial studies with the field of psychoanalysis. Both postcolonial studies and psychoanalysis engage questions of sexualized and racialized difference in the context of 20th century Europe and the legacies of colonialism. Postcolonial studies and psychoanalysis both also contend with notions of individual and collective well-being, with belonging and exclusion.

Psychoanalysis is a colonial discipline which produced a form of analysis that emerged in the time of colonialism. As such, psychoanalysis contributed to colonial notions of civilized and primitive, of man and woman, of normal and abnormal, of Europe and its others. At the same time, however, contexts of anticolonial struggle in turn shaped psychoanalytic thought. By examining texts central to these two fields, this course considers how psychoanalytic thought can help us understand the processes through which individuated subjects become defined in terms of collective groups of belonging such as the nation, and how filiation and family is connected to affiliation and nation, through relations of affect and concepts of representational politics.

We will begin with an introduction to the inception of psychoanalysis in Europe, and examine how it travels and is taken up in Europe’s colonies. Drawing on postcolonial theory and literature, we will learn about the historical emergence of the term “postcolonial,” the political and disciplinary debates to which the term gave rise, and its relation to ideas of nationalism, diaspora, Orientalism. Geographically, we will examine examples of anticolonial struggle in Algeria, India, and Palestine/Israel. Readings will focus on texts by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, the Subaltern Studies group, and scholars who directly engage with these thinkers, including Jacques Lacan, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak. Students will be evaluated based on class participation, reading responses, a mid-term essay and final paper.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: Prior coursework in Literature, Anthropology or related fields recommended; permission of instructor required. Class limit: 12. Lab fee: $10. Meets the following degree requirements: HS


Prior coursework in Literature, Anthropology or related fields recommended; permission of instructor required. 

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