Taught course

Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

University of Birmingham · Department of Modern Languages

Entry requirements

2.1 or higher in a related subject

Months of entry


Course content

This interdisciplinary programme will offer you a cultural, literary, theoretical and historiographical foundation in the field of colonial and postcolonial studies. Taking an original, interdisciplinary approach, you will be studying material from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond. Working with World Literature, film and historical sources, you will explore major currents in cultural production and identity politics. Looking at some of the most decisive phenomena the modern world has witnessed, the course develops your understanding of the complexities of the contemporary era, preparing you for a wide range of professional and intellectual future activities. You will be introduced to a range of authors, and have the opportunity to study works and critical texts which originated in languages other than English. Works will be taught in English translation, with the possibility to read them in the original modern languages

This programme is ideal for those with a background in French Studies, Hispanic Studies, Modern Languages, History, Translation Studies, Gender Studies, European Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, English Literature, Cultural Studies, Film Studies and World Literature.

It will give you the opportunity to undertake further study to develop your understanding of key principles underpinning the study of colonial and postcolonial cultures in a comparative, global and inter-disciplinary context.

The programme includes the following core modules [full descriptions available below]:

  • World Literatures and Film I
  • World Literatures and Film II
  • Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Research Methods

You will also choose an optional module chosen from a range of relevant disciplines such as History, African studies, Development or literature related to colonialism and postcolonialism.

You will complete the course with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic which you will choose, refine and analyse with the help of your supervisor (who will be allocated to you depending upon your own research interests)

You will study five core modules:

World Literatures and Film I and II

These modules set out to examine World Literature and Cinema, through a range of critical investigations. How might these concepts be theoretically defined? How might they have the potential to alter established approaches to power relations, identity, socio-political order and literary canons? The modules offer a fascinating insight into major literary phenomena of the modern era, through critical examination and dynamic discussion of a range of texts coming from areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond.

Postcolonial Theory

This module involves the study and analysis of key thinkers of postcolonial theory, examining figures such as Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Frantz Fanon, in addition to the more recent theorists of World Literature. The approach will be both theoretical and applied, enabling you to encounter and examine these intellectual figures and their work, and to assess critically possible applications and relevance to your own fields of interest.

Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires

Postcolonialism is primarily an intellectual (and often political) attempt to challenge the politico-economic and symbolic world domination of European powers – i.e. colonialism. But how did European empires develop in the first place? What were the value systems which drove a tiny peninsula of the Eurasiatic continent to expand and conquer the rest of the world? And how did modern European colonial systems compare with empires of other times and places? Through a comparative approach of imperial systems since the early modern period, this module examines the conditions and modus operandi of a political phenomenon which came to rule the world in the late nineteenth century, when the majority of the planet became subjected to half a dozen European countries. It offers a thought-provoking introduction to a condition which triggered multiple emancipatory reaction, and still influences much of today's world.

Research Methods

This module will prepare you for the 15,000-word dissertation. It will allow you to hone your research, critical and writing skills under the supervision of a subject specialist.

You will also choose one optional module:

Module outside of the Main Department

You will also choose an optional module chosen from a range within History, African Studies, Development or Literature related to colonialism and postcolonialism.

Dissertation in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

You will complete the programme with a 15,000-word dissertation in colonial and postcolonial studies, which will give you the opportunity to research a topic of your choice related to colonial and postcolonial studies. You will be invited to reflect upon topics which you would like to explore academically, and you will then be given the opportunity to discuss with your supervisor the sources, methodology and argument which you can use to produce an original piece of research which will make a contribution to scholarship. The variety of languages and disciplines represented in the Department of Modern Languages ensure that we are able to offer highly qualified supervision in a large variety of fields and intellectual approaches.

Explore postgraduate study at Birmingham at one of our on-campus open days (Friday 13 November 2015 and Friday 4 March 2016). Register to attend at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/pgopendays

If you can’t make it to one of our on-campus open days, our virtual open days run regularly throughout the year. For more information, please visit: www.pg.bham.ac.uk

Fees and funding

UK students
£6,570 FT - £3,285 PT
International students
£14,850 FT

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. For more information, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

Qualification and course duration


part time
24 months
full time
12 months

Course contact details

Postgraduate Enquiry Service
0121 414 5005