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Digitally Decolonial - ENG00130M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Claire Chambers
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module scrutinizes what information, communications, and entertainment technologies are doing to societies, especially (but not exclusively) in formerly-colonized nations. These technologies include, but are not limited to: phones and drones; social media; music streaming services; blogs; virtual reality; and YouTube. Technology and its impact on or merger with the human is something the chosen writers are fascinated by. These authors’ central focus is, understandably, often on how fiction might respond. 

Our primary concern is with the novel, and how its form and content is adapting to reflect the plethora of new technologies emerging in the twenty-first century. This module is not, then, intended as a forum for exploring the Instapoetry of such authors as Rupi Kaur. Nor does it take the digital humanities, computer-aided ‘distant reading’ approach of Roopika Risam or Franco Moretti. (However, MA students are free to write about either of these ways of thinking in consultation with the module convenor.) Instead, we ask how the twenty-first century novel – including the Afrofuturist, Young Adult, and graphic novel – has been changed by, and is changing, ICT. We also briefly examine other prose forms, including narrative non-fiction and short stories; but poetry is outside this module’s purview.

Together we will  explore how gender, race, and class relations are being reshaped by the digital world. Students train their critical gaze on the key texts, via Judith Butler, through the tripartite lens of information precarity (Wall, Campbell, and Janbek, 2015), communication precarity (Chan, 2017), and technological precarity (Shibata, 2018; Beer, 2018). Several of these fictional works, we will discover, provide a window onto a technologically assisted future surveilled by drones and subverted by phones. Their postcolonial protagonists may seem powerless, but they sometimes make use of technology in unexpected ways which appear to protect them, or at least hold at bay hostile larger forces. Colonialism and its residues create a gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The novelists emphasize that a lack of material goods and basic amenities is the lot of global outsiders. This contrasts with the affluence of many in the West. However, when even the powerless have powerful technologies in their hands, things may start to change. 
 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce students to some of the most cutting-edge and genre-bending postcolonial fiction of the early twenty-first century. Participants will engage with how novels are adapting a variety of different media to assess the impact of new technologies on art and social justice, especially in the global south.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with twenty-first century world novels’ depictions of technology.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with analysing film and television as well as gaining close reading skills.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with communicative capitalism and the novel form.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

You will hand in an essay of approximately 1,500 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term for the Postgraduate Life in Practice module. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills.  Material from this essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  

Indicative reading

Indicative reading may include, though not necessarily in this order:

  1. Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (and the film The Reluctant Fundamentalist)

  2. Tash Aw, Five Star Billionaire (and the film Crazy Rich Asians)

  3. Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (and the film Black Panther)

  4. Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends (and the film Once)

  5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (and the film Half of a Yellow Sun)

  6. Amir and Khalil, Zahra’s Paradise (and the film Persepolis)

  7. Raja AlSanea, Girls of Riyadh (and the film Wadjda)

  8. Hari Kunzru, Transmission (and the film Monsoon Wedding)

  9. Muhammad Khan, I Am Thunder (and Channel 4’s The State)

  10. Prayaag Akbar, Leila (and its Netflix adaptation)

  11. Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (and the first episode of the TV series The Handmaid’s Tale)

 

Secondary material may include:

Adas, Michael. Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014/1989.

Alavi, Nasrin. We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2005.  

Aouragh, Miriyam. ‘Everyday Resistance on the Internet: The Palestinian Context’. Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research 1.2 (2008): 109-130.

Broussard, Meredith. Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018.

Caspi, Dan, and Nelly Elias. ‘Don’t Patronize Me: Media-by and Media-for Minorities’. Ethnic and Racial Studies 34.1 (2011): 62-82.

Davidson, Cathy N. and David Theo Goldberg, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.

Dinnen, Zara. The Digital Banal: New Media and American Literature and Culture. New York: Cornell University Press, 2018.

Fox, Rachel Gregory. ‘Mourning Mothers in Iran: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of Grievability and Martyrdom’. Muslim Mothering: Local and Global Histories, Theories, and Practices, edited by M. Aziza Pappano and Dana M. Olwan, Demeter Press, 2016, pp. 69-90.

Galloway, Scott. The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. New York, Penguin, 2017.

Jasanoff, Sheila. The Ethics of Invention: Technology and the Human Future. New York: Norton, 2016.

Jin, Dal Yong. Digital Platforms, Imperialism and Political Culture. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015.

Kesvani, Hussein. Follow Me, Akhi: The Online World of British Muslims. London: Hurst, 2019.

Khalili, Laleh. “Virtual Nation: Palestinian Cyberculture in Lebanese Camps.” In Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture, edited by Rebbecca Stein and Ted Swedenburg, 2005. 126-149.

Moore, Phoebe V. The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts. Abingdon: Routledge, 2018.

Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

O’Reilly, Michelle et al. ‘Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health and Wellbeing? Exploring the Perspectives of Adolescents’. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 23.4 (2018): 601–613.

Poletti, Anne, and Julie Rak, eds. Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.  

Rak, J. ‘The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity’. Biography, 28.1 (2005): 166-182.

Prensky, Marc ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1’. On the Horizon 9.5 (2001): 1–6.

Risam, Roopika. New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2018.

Susskind, Daniel. A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond. London: Penguin, 2020.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Wall, Melissa, Madeline Otis Campbell, and Dana Janbek. ‘Syrian Refugees and Information Precarity’. New Media & Society 19.2 (2017): 240–54.

Watson, Richard, Future Minds: How the Digital Age Is Changing Our Minds, Why This Matters, and What We Can Do About It. London: Nicholas Brealey, 2010.

Wu, Tim. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads. London: Atlantic, 2017/2016.

Zuboff, Shobana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile, 2019.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.