syllabus: topics and readings

University of Bucharest, Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies
MA Program: Media, Public Communication and Globalization
Course: Universalisms Deconstructed: Global Asymmetries, Local Issues
Course instructor: Lecturer Theodora-Eliza Văcărescu, PhD (
Academic year: 2015-2016


Course objectives:
At the end of the course, students must be able to:
– understand the dynamics and mechanisms of producing, reproducing and legitimizing power on the global level and their input on the local, regional and national “realities;”
– critically analyze the discourses that construct and legitimize power asymmetries between the global “North” and “South,” as well as the European “East” and “West;”
– write critical texts (both journalistic and academic) sensitive to the global power relationships and asymmetries, thus going beyond the limited and limitative paradigms of ethno- and euro-centrism.

1. Class attending (minimum 9 classes) and participation in the discussions – this means that students MUST have read the required texts for that specific topic PRIOR to the class – 25 %
2. Each students has to do at least one oral summary of a text and provide themes and questions for debate related to the respective topic – 25 %
3. In-class short reaction-papers, take-home film reviews, etc. – 25 %
4. Students must write and hand in a paper on a chosen topic and critically discuss pertinent aspects, approaches, examples. The paper may be an academic one, or an in-depth journalistic one – 25 %
Format: Length: 8-10 pages; Times New Roman, font 12; Justified, 1,5 lines.
(Students may work in pairs; however, the length of the paper is in this case double.)
N.B. ALL four requirements are mandatory and students must fulfill and pass all of them.

– Each course unit will provide the students with one or two mandatory readings (MUST be read before the class): usually one is a scholarly piece, the other is a journalistic/ popular discourse text.
– Within each class, the students choose one reading to summarize before their peers and put forward three questions and/or topics of discussion. The rest of the class consists in discussions and debates and, where the topic allows, the students are required to write a short reaction paper.
– The course will include at least five documentary films (or chosen fragments of documentaries) pertinent to the respective topic. Students will be required to write short critical reviews of those films.
– Most of the classes will also benefit from hand-outs (short journalistic/ blog/ forum articles, comments, etc.) that will be discussed in groups and then presented to the class.


C1. Discussion of course content, objectives, and applications. Course requirements and evaluation. Students’ feedback and interest in the topics.

C2. Introduction to Postcolonialism/ Postcolonial Studies. Key-concepts. Social and historical paradigms. Marginality and power. Practices of resistance in “third world countries.”

Robert C.J. Young, Postcolonialism. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 1-44 (chapters “Introduction,” “Subaltern Knowledge,” “History and Power, from Below and Above”) [C2_Young 2003_Postcolonialism-A Very Short Introduction_fragments].

C3. Introduction to Orientalism. Key-concepts. Social, economic, political and historical paradigms. Critical responses. Film screening.

Edward Said, Orientalism, London: Penguin Books, 2003 (orig. 1977), pp. 1-28 (chapter “Introduction”) [C3_Said_Introduction] and pp. 31-49 (chapter “Knowing the Oriental”) [C3_Said_Knowing the Oriental].

C4. Orientalism and Occidentalism. Ethno- and Euro-centrism. Gendered Orientalism. Critical approaches.

Reina Lewis, Rethinking Orientalism. Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem, London & New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004, pp. 142-177 (chapter “Eroticised Bodies: Representing Other Women”) [C4_Lewis_Eroticised Bodies-Representing Other Women].

Londa Schiebinger, „Taxonomy for Human Beings” in Gill Kirkup, Linda Janes, Kath Woodward, Fiona Hovenden (eds.), The Gendered Cyborg, London & New York: Routledge, 2001, pp. 11-37 (fragments to be handed in class).

C5. “Persistence of Colonialism”/ Neocolonialsm (I). The “new” empire. Wars as “humanitarian” interventions. Critical responses. Film screening.

No readings for this class 🙂

C6. “Persistence of Colonialism”/ Neocolonialism (II). The “new” empire. Wars as “humanitarian” interventions. Critical responses.

Douglas Little, Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2008, pp. pp. 117-155, (chapter “A Tale of Four Doctrines: U.S. National Security, the Soviet Threat, and the Middle East”) [C6_Douglas Little_A Tale of Four Doctrines] and pp. 307-342, (chapter “Not Your Father’s Persian Gulf War: The Bush Doctrine, Iraq, and Radical Islam”) [C6_Douglas Little_Not Your Father’s Persian Gulf War].

C7. Global Asymmetries, Local Issues (I). Race, Ethnicity, Class. Ideology and resistance.

Frederik Cooper, “Race, Ideology and the Perils of Comparative History,” American Historical Review, vol. 101/ 1996, pp. 1122-1138 [C7_Frederik Cooper_Race, Ideology and the Perils of Comparative History].

C8. Global Asymmetries, Local Issues (II). Gender, ideology and tradition: sati, dowry-murders. Resistance to “Western universalisms” and intervention. Film screening.

Uma Narayan, Dislocating Cultures. Identities, Traditions, and Third World Feminism, London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 41-80 (chapter “Contrasting the Colonialist Stance and Contemporary Contestations of Sati”) [C8_Uma Narayan_Constrasting the Colonialist Stance and Contemporary Contestations of Sati]; pp. 81-117 (chapter “Thinking about Dowry-Murders in India and Domestic-Violence Murders in the United States”) [C8_Uma Narayan_Thinking about Dowry-Murders in India and Domestic-Violence Murders in the US].

C9. Global Asymmetries, Local Issues (III). Gender, ideology and tradition: female genital excisions (clitoridectomy). Critical responses.

Isabella R. Gunning, “Arrogant Perception, World-Traveling and Multicultural Feminism: The Case of Female Genital Surgeries,” Columbia Human Rights Law Review, vol. 23, no. 2/ 1992, pp. 189-248 [C9_Isabella Gunning_Arrogant Perception, World-Traveling and Multicultural Feminism- The Case of Female Genital Surgeries].

C10. European “East” and “West” (I). Center and Periphery – an historical perspective. “Belated development” – critical approaches. Capitalist accumulation, exploitation, semi-peripheries. Film screening.

Londa Schiebinger, “Taxonomy for Human Beings” in Gill Kirkup, Linda Janes, Kath Woodward, Fiona Hovenden (eds.), The Gendered Cyborg, London & New York: Routledge, 2001, pp. 11-37 [C10_Londa Schiebinger_Taxonomy For Human Beings].

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine. The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007, pp. 171-193, (chapter “Slamming the Door on History: A Crisis in Poland, a Massacre in China”) [C10_Klein_Slamming the Door on History] and pp. 218-262 (chapters “Bonfire of a Young Democracy: Russia Chooses ‘The Pinochet Option’” and “The Capitalist Id: Russia and the New Era of the Boor Market”) [C10_Klein_Bonfire of a Young Democracy-The Capitalist Id].

C11. European “East” and “West” (II). Historical and contemporary approaches: “non-citizens” in Romania. Critical approaches.

Constantin Iordachi, “The Unyielding Boundaries of Citizenship: The Emancipation of ‘Non-Citizens’ in Romania, 1866-1918,” European Review of History, vol. 8, no. 2/ 2001, pp. 157-186 [C11_Iordachi_The Unyielding Boundaries of Citizenship].

Zoltan Barany, The East European Gypsies. Regime Change, Marginality, and Ethnopolitics, CA, Cambridge University Press, 2002, chapter “The Gypsies in Imperial and Authoritarian States,” pp. 83-111 [C11_Barany_Gypsies in Imperial and Authoritarian States].

C12. European “East” and “West” (III). Mainstream discourse on Romanian “exceptionalism.” Critical responses. Debate.

Lucian Boia, De ce este România altfel?, Bucureşti: Humanitas, 2012 (fragments).

C13. Post-socialism and anti-communism in Romania. Mainstream public and historiographical anti-communist discourse(s) in contemporary Romania. Contestations and alternative histories. “Repression” of contesting historical approaches. Debate.

G.M. Tamás, “Un capitalism pur şi simplu” (orig. “A Capitalism Pure and Simple,” The Curve, no. 32/ 2008) in Adrian T. Sîrbu and Alexandru Polgár (eds), Genealogii ale postcomunismului, Cluj: Ed. Idea, 2009, pp. 9-43 [C13_Gaspar Miklos Tamas_A Capitalism Pure and Simple].

Vasile Ernu, Costi Rogozanu, Ciprian Şiulea and Ovidiu Ţichindeleanu (eds), Iluzia anticomunismului. Lecturi critice ale Raportului Tismăneanu, Chişinău: Ed. Cartier, 2008 (fragments).

C14. Conclusion and further questions. Paper/s, articles, and reviews submission. Final debates.

ADDITIONAL READINGS (handed out upon request)

Adib-Moghaddam, Arshin, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations. Us and Them Beyond Orientalism, London: Hurst & Company, 2011, pp. 1-25, pp. 265-300.

Krishna, Sankaran, Globalizationa and Postcolonialsm. Hegemony and Resistance in the Twenty-First Century, Boulder & New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009, pp. 7-30, pp. 31-62, pp. 131-154.

Landry, Donna and Gerald MacLean (ed.), Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, New York & London: Routledge, 1996 (fragments).

Orford, Anne, International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Wallerstein, Immanuel, World-System Analysis. An Introduction, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2004.

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