Syllabus Spring 2015


Sarnath Banerjee, Plumber’s Progress 3: Hawa Mahal (Dream Merchants of Gurgaon)

Specters of the Postcolonial City

Instructor: Yaminay Chaudhri

Course number ———–

Room ———–

Wednesday, Thursday


Spring 2015, SZABIST (Media Sciences Masters Level Course)

This course explores the ways in which contemporary postcolonial cities are represented in popular media, literature, film and fine art.

Via seminal readings of postcolonial theory and vernacular examples of visual and cultural production, the course will attempt to identify and complicate the narratives that construct the postcolonial urban experience. Main points of focus will include questions of visibility and perspective, privilege and marginalization, gender and power relations in the city.

Students are expected to comprehend and discuss concepts in postcolonial theory and visual studies and apply them to analysis of contemporary visual media.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand key terminology and concepts of postcolonial theory
  • Locate these theories in epistemological frameworks: geography and time
  • Understand the context of these theories, their ‘re’-location to South Asian sites via colonization and globalization, and the complications of that interface
  • Study a range of visual representation of the city (comparing formal, official and vernacular narratives)
  • Locate the city within narratives of power: class, race, gender, ethnicity, belonging and desire
  • Write a paper comparing two different visions of the city using advertisement, film, television programming or visual art.
  • Develop a class blog, a sort of visual diary of found media in relation to your readings. Post final essays with visuals on the blog.

Student Evaluation:

Assignments (95% of grade)–including writing / presentation assignments, contributions to a class blog and final paper.

Class discussions (5% of grade).

Breakdown of assignments (95%):

30%– blog contribution, (archived media stream, research and personal responses)

30%– 3 short writing assignments, (1 Film/ media review, 2 assigned reading reviews)

35%– final paper 1500-2000 words with media component.

Attendance Policy:

Attendance is mandatory. Every missed class will result in a half grade drop (A to A-, B- to C). 3 late appearances (or early departures) equal 1 absence.

Class Format:

Lectures, multimedia presentations, active reading, discussions.

12 themed sessions, 2 guest lectures, 3 classes dedicated to student presentations. No cell phones please.

  1. Introduction to the course

We will discuss the syllabus, class blog, themes covered in class and screen the film Enjoy ­Poverty by Renzo Martens.

Come to class having read an essay on Renzo Martens’ film Enjoy Poverty:

  1. Spectacle and the Postcolonial City

We will discuss and connect various theories and ways of looking at contemporary cities. We will define terminology: colonial, postcolonial and their visual interface in contemporary media.

Selected Readings from:The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord pg. 142-144, Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard pg. 145-146, Of Other Spaces Michel Foucault pg 229-236 from The Visual Culture Reader. Introduction, pg. 1-4 from The Post-Colonial Studies Reader.

Look at film Metropolis/ Man with a Movie Camera

3 & 4. Subjects and Objects in the city

We will discuss categorization and the construction of subjects, objects, ‘sub-alternity’, orientalism, and the ‘third-world’ metropolis. Discuss the creation and transference of power relations from colonial anthropological studies such as the Hottentot Venus all the way to contemporary post-colonial and contemporary conditions of hierarchy.

Read, Notes on the “Post-Colonial” by Ella Shohat, Can the Subaltern Speak? by Gayatri Spivak Pg. 24-28, Orientalism by Edward Said Pg.87-91in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, The Negro And Language by Franz Fanon Pg 17-40, in Black Skin, White Mask. Look at visual art and representations on contemporary media of the city.

Look at film Reassemblage                             

(First Short assignment due)

  1. Gender and the city

We will discuss postcolonial media, and the gendered city through the lens of feminist and Foucauldian theory.

Read Space Place and Gender (1994) by Doreen Massey pg 307-310 in The City Cultures Reader. Second ed. Excerpts from Foucault’s, History of Sexuality Volume 1.

Look at excerpts from television and cinema.

James Bond, Legally Blonde, Hamsafar. Amir Liaquat and Mathira.

  1. Migration and Belonging:

Discuss claims to belonging in cities. How does identity—rooted or nomadic—inform the ways in which we inhabit cities and define ourselves as citizens. How does globalization alter the claims to belonging in cities that are no longer bound by geographical boundaries?

Read selected pages from Edouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation and Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong’s Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global.

Look at advertisements:

Zipperless entry luggage advertisement:

7 & 8. Karachi: World Class City and its Discontents

Discuss the hopes, plans and projections that define Karachi as a 21st century metropolis. From migration narratives to ideas of progress and development, what does it mean to be a postcolonial megacity? What do terms like neo-liberalism, capitalism, imperialism, and modernity imply? How does the city present itself to its citizens and to the world?

In class look at Karachi Redevelopment Plan 2020, Naya Pakistan imagery, Bahria Town advertisements.

Read selected pages from Nausheen H. Anwar and Sarwat Viqar’s Producing Cosmopolitan Karachi: Freedom, Security and Urban Redevelopment in the Post-colonial Metropolis. Asif Farruk̲h̲I’s Look at the City from Here: Karachi Writings.

Laurent Gayer’s Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City. (Pgs 255-283)

  1. Skype session with Nausheen Anwar and Sarwat Viqar (tbc)

(Second Short assignment due)


  1. Screening of documentaries and student films about Karachi.
  1. Utopia-Dystopia

from Pruitt-Igoe to Dubai, how have modernist visions of architectural utopia shaped cities? We will look at Le Corbusier’s plans for cities along with various city beautiful movements (Chicago to Brasilia), American ‘starchitects’ in the Global South and the displacement of people and habitats for the creation of idealised living environments. How have heritage conservation movements and renovations to Karachi’s colonial architecture shaped the image of the city?

Read selected pages from Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables and Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Images of the Modern City. Anisa Rahim’s Gurgaon Utopia. Vikram Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay: Stories. Karachi Strategic Redevelopment Plan 2020. Images from Bas Princen’s Refuge 5 Cities.

Look at film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History by Chad Freidrichs


  1. Artist talk: skype session with Sarnath Bannerjee and Bani Abidi about works, cities and projected utopias

(Third Short assignment due)

  1. Aesthetics, Resolution and Digital Cities

We will study the changing space of identity, nationalism and belonging in the digital age.

Read excerpts from Nicholas Mirzoeff’s Visual Culture Reader. Jaques Rancier’s The future of the image. Ella Shohat’s Multiculturalism, Postcoliniality and Transnational Media


Look at the Digital Citizenship HIGHRISE project National Film Board of Canada. (also look at cities in virtual reality games).

  1. Student Presentations (date might be moved up)
  2. Student presentations (date might be moved up)
  3. Final paper due

Media list: (to be adjusted/ selected from)


Enjoy Poverty                          Renzo Martens

Man with a Movie Camera       Dziga Vertov

Metropolis                               Fritz Lang

Reassemblage                          Trinh T. Minh Ha

(Various projects)                      Bani Abidi

Darjeeling Limited                     Wes Anderson

Passage to India                        David Lean

Slumdog Millionare                   Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan

Octopussy (James Bond)             John Glen

Indiana Jones and the

Temple of Doom                        Steven Spielberg

Salaam Bombay                        Mira Nair

Waltz with Bashir                      Ari Folman

Hunger Games                           Gary Ross

Hamsafar                                  Zakir Ahmed, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat

Dhobi Ghat                                Kiran Rao

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth                  Chad Freidrichs

Saving Face                               Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Daniel Junge

The World Won’t Listen              Phil Collins (visual artist)

Sans Soleil                                Chris Marker

Pakistani Television shows      Amir Liaquat


Bibliography/ Reading Sources

Anwar, Nausheen H., and Sarwat Viqar. Producing Cosmopolitan Karachi: Freedom, Security and Urban Redevelopment in the Post-colonial Metropolis. London: Routledge, 2014. Print. South Asian History and Culture.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.

Chandra, Vikram. Love and Longing in Bombay: Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997. Print.

Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993. Print.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles L. Markmann. London: Pluto, 1967. Print.

Farruk̲h̲i, Asif. Look at the City from Here: Karachi Writings. Karachi: Oxford, 2010. Print.

Foucault, Michel, and Paul Rabinow. The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon, 1984. Print.

Gayer, Laurent. Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City. London: Hurst, 2014. Print.

Glissant, Edouard, and Betsy Wing. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1997. Print.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. The Visual Culture Reader. Second ed. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

LeGates, Richard T., and Frederic Stout. The City Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1996. Print.

Loomba, Ania. Colonialism-postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 1998. Print.

Mazumdar, Ranjani. Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2007. Print.

Prakash, Gyan. Mumbai Fables. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2010. Print.

Prakash, Gyan. Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Images of the Modern City. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2010. Print.

Rahim, Anisa. “Gurgaon Utopia.” Sarai Reader: Projections. Vol. 9. Delhi: n.p., 2013. 184-90. Print.

Ranciere, Jaques. The Emancipated Spectator. London, New York: Verso, 2009. Print.

Ranciere, Jaques. The Future of the Image. London, New York: Verso, 2007. Print.

Roy, Ananya, and Aihwa Ong. Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print.

Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2003. Print.

Trinh, T. Minh-Ha. Elsewhere, within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.