Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire


KNW 2399 Special Topics:

On the Edges of Empire: India and Mexico/American Southwest
Spring 2017

Instructors: Neil Foley and Rachel Ball-Phillips
Class Time: Tuesdays 6:30pm-9:20pm
Location: Hyer Hall 200

Course Description:

Spanning the globe from the Americas to South Asia, this interdisciplinary course will examine the peripheries of empires. Rather than looking at the history of empires from the view of European powers (England and Spain), this course takes us to the places that were conquered in order to gain a broader understanding of how empire and colonialism worked, or failed to work, and ultimately what led these “edges of empires” to decolonize and gain independence (India and Mexico) – and, in the case of the American Southwest, become incorporated into another empire: the United States. This course provides an in-depth interdisciplinary study of the British colonization of India and the expansion of New Spain into the northern borderlands of present-day Mexico and the American Southwest. Using film/visual culture in addition to historical texts, we will explore common themes of colonial ideologies, class/caste and gender formations, legal and economic systems, emerging regional and national identities, religious cultures and other topics from the eighteenth century to present.

By focusing on the “edges of empires”, or the periphery, rather than European powers, this course provides the historical knowledge to contextualize many of the human rights issues that plague the post-colonial world today. Colonization left its imprint upon the globe, but the biggest losers were indigenous people everywhere. The common themes of the colonial and post-colonial world are not limited to India and Mexico, and this course will culminate with an open forum that brings specialists from our SMU community together to discuss the question of human rights in the post-colonial world.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of more than one disciplinary practice.

Students will be able to explain how bringing more than one practice to an examination of the course topic contributes to knowing about that topic.

Required Readings:

All texts are available to students on Canvas. Students should come to the first class of each unit having read the assigned reading. We will draw from these texts for class discussion.

Films for the Class: (available on reserve at Fondren Library)

You will choose one film on India and one film on Mexico/American Southwest.

Water (2005), India – available at Fondren Library

The Mask of Zorro (1998) – available at Fondren Library 


Weekly Reading Analysis (300 words each) – 20%
Canvas Discussion posts (500 words each) – 30%
Mid-term Film Analysis– 10%
Final Project: Photograph Analysis – 10%
Final Project: Thesis and Bibliography – 5%
Final Project: Curated Photographs with Partner – 10%
Final Project: Photography Research Paper – 15%

Course Components:

Weekly Reading Analysis (300 words each) – Each week you are assigned a reading that will be available on Canvas. You will write a 300 word analysis of the reading(s). It is crucial that you identify the argument/thesis of the author in this analysis, and effectively explain how the author supports that argument/thesis. Visual culture is a central component of this course, and as such, you will choose a photograph or painting (an image) you think is related to the reading. In your analysis you will also include how the image you have selected is related to the reading(s) for that week. You will submit these as HARD COPIES at the beginning of each class, and they will be returned to you at the end of class so that you can use them to write your Discussion Posts.

Your weekly reading analysis should be formatted as follows:

Title page

Week #
Group #
Word Count

Paper Title


Reading Analysis (300 words) – second page

Discussion Posts – (500 words each) – This class will be broken into two-week units. Each unit will cover one week of India and one week of Mexico/American Southwest. You will write a blog post for each unit. Each discussion post should draw on all the assigned readings for that unit, as well as lectures and discussions. Your discussion post should address the important themes of the unit. You may focus on one theme that can be addressed by all assigned readings, lectures, and discussions. In your discussion post, you should cite readings by using the author’s name and page number. For non-course materials, full citation is required. Your blog posts should not simply summarize the texts or the lectures, but rather demonstrate your own intellectual and analytical engagement with the material.

Mid-term Film Analysis – As a mid-term assessment, you will write an analysis of a film on Mexico or India. The choice is yours. This is not simply a review of the film, but instead an opportunity for you to identify major themes in the film that you can connect with other course materials dealing with colonialism. Papers should be 5 pages, Times New Roman 12 point font, double-spaced, with one inch margins. Please include a cover sheet with the title of your paper, as well as your name, class, date, and signed honor code (“On my honor I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment”). You should draw on at least two additional sources, which must include academic articles and/or books. More details will be provided in a separate document.

Final Visual Culture Project – The final project is comprised of four parts. All components work together as part of our class goal to make history public, particularly the history of visual culture through photographs. We will begin our project with a trip to DeGolyer Library Special Collections on March 7. You will be introduced to the digital photographs of 19th and 20th century India and Mexico/American Southwest.

You will then choose two photographs of India and two photographs of Mexico to analyze. After you complete your photo analysis, you will post it in the blog section of our class website:

Based on what you learned from your photograph analysis, you will then develop a thesis and annotated bibliography that you will use as the basis for your final paper. We will compile all of our bibliographic information together, and post it as a class bibliography on our website.

You will then work in pairs to curate the photographs you find to be most compelling. This portion of the project entails curating a professional looking exhibit that will grace the halls of Dallas hall through the Fall 2017 semester. You will come up with two photographs (one India, one Mexico) and paragraph about the photograph selections and the connections to broader class themes. Those assignments that receive an A will be exhibited in Dallas Hall.

You will then, INDIVIDUALLY, write a research paper based on your thesis and bibliography. This will be a 5 to 7 page research paper that treats the photographs as primary sources.

More information on all portions of the project will be provided in separate documents.


Schedule of Classes

Week 1
January 24 (T) Introduction to Colonialism

UNIT 1: The Early Years of Colonization

Week 2
January 31 (T) European Expansion into South Asia

* Edward Said, “Introduction,” in Orientalism, pp. 1-30

Week 3
February 7 (T) Spanish Conquest and Colonization of the New World


* John Chasteen, “Encounter,” in Born in Blood and Fire: 25-53 (28 pp)

* Matthew Restall, “Apes and Men: The Myth of Superiority,” in Seven Myths of the * Spanish Conquest: 131-145 (14 pp)

UNIT 2: How Colonialism Works: Culture, Class, and Gender in Colonial Society

Week 4
February 14 (T) Economy, Race, and Gender in Indian Colonial Society
Discussion Post 1 Due

* Durba Ghosh, “Who counts as ‘native’?: gender, race, and subjectivity in colonial India,” Journal of Colonial History. 6:3 (2005)
* Prasannan Parthasarathi, “India and the Global Economy, 1600-1800,” in Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not, pp. 21-50

Week 5
February 21 (T) Northward Expansion, Treatment of the Indians and the Pueblo Revolt

* Neil Foley, “Genesis of Mexican America,” in Mexicans in the Making of America: 13-38 (25 pp)
* Bartolomé de Las Casas, “New Spain,” in The Devastation of the Indies (~1552): 57-68 (10 pp)
* Juan Genés de Sepulveda, “On the Reasons for the Just War among the Indians” (PDF, 4 pp)

UNIT 3: Rebellion in India and Mexico: Challenging Colonial Powers

Week 6
February 28 (T) Social Intervention and the Great Rebellion
Discussion Post 2 Due

* Thomas Metcalf, “The Ordering of Difference” in Ideologies of the Raj , pp. 113-159
* John Falconer, “ ‘A pure labor of love’: A publishing history of The People of India,” in Colonialist Photography: Imag(in)ing Race and Place, eds. Eleanor M. Hight and Gary D. Sampson, pp. 51-83.
VISUALIZING EMPIRE: Digital Archives and Visual Analysis

Week 7
March 7 (T) DeGolyer Visit
Mid-Term Film Analysis Due

*Peers and Gooptu (eds.), Ch. 10 “The Material and Visual Culture of British India,” Christopher Pinney
March 14 (T) – Spring Break Holiday
UNIT 3: Rebellion in India and Mexico: Challenging Colonial Powers (CONTINUED)

Week 8
March 21 (T) “Mestizaje” (Race-Mixing) and the End of Spanish Rule in Mexico
Photograph Analysis Due

* María Elena Martínez, “Black Blood of New Spain: Limpieza de Sangre, Racial Violence, and Gendered Power in Early Colonial Mexico” in William and Mary Quarterly (2004): 479-520 (41 pp)
UNIT 4: Nationalism, Expansion and Revolts: Challenging the Colonizers

Week 9
March 28 (T) Nationalism in India
Discussion Post 3 Due

*Shahid Amin, “Gandhi as Mahatma,” in Selected Subaltern Studies, pp. 288-342
Week 10
April 4 (T) The Texas Revolt, Annexation, and the War with Mexico
Bibliography + Thesis Due

David Weber, “Scarce More Than Apes,” in Myth and the History of the Hispanic Southwest: 153-167 (14 pp)
John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity [1839]” in Norman Graebner, ed., Manifest Destiny: 15-21 (6 pp)
* David Weber, “Mythmaking and the Texas Revolution,” in Major Problems in Mexican American History: 106-112 (6 pp)
UNIT 5: The End of Empire (?): Human Rights in a Post-Colonial World

Week 11
April 11 (T) Partition and Independence
Discussion Post 4 Due

Reading: Film, Gandhi (1982)

Week 12
April 18 (T) Resistance in the American Southwest/The Mexican Revolution
Curated Photographs and Excerpt Due (Partners)

* Foley, chapter 2: “No Estás en tu Casa,” from Mexicans in the Making of America
* Robert Chambers, “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” in Documents of American Prejudice: 59-63 (5 pp)
* Box, “Restriction of Mexican Immigration” (4 pp)


Week 13
April 25 (T) – The Legacies of Colonialism in India and Mexico/American Southwest
Discussion Post 5 Due
Final Research Paper Due

Reading: C.A. Bayly, “The Destruction of Native Peoples and Ecological Depredation,” in The Birth of the Modern World, pp. 432-450

Week 14
May 2 (T)
Public Forum: Human Rights and the Post-Colonial World and Dallas Hall Exhibit Opening– with experts from SMU discussing questions of human rights in a post-colonial world.

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