Power and Resistance I

Advanced topics
Course Description: 

The course proposes focused readings in power and resistance studies. It privileges a humanities (as opposed to a positivistic/scientistic) perspective, which is motivated by the desire to offer new intelligibilities, via the destabilisation of everyday, commonsensical and dominant scholarly knowledge’s, of OUR experiences (in our everyday lives and in our scholarly work) related to power, truth, subjectivity, identity, freedom, ethics and so on. Contemporary thinking about power and resistance that is aimed to disassemble dominant understandings of the present across different domains and to open them up to alternative modes of thinking and making the world, by injecting anxiety and uncertainty into dominant forms of engagement and expertise, remain heavily indebted to the path-breaking interventions by Marx and Foucault and subsequent elaborations and displacements of their work. The course aims at enabling participants to acquire in-depth knowledge of central Marxian and Foucaultian themes, concerns, concepts, epistemologies, methodologies in power and resistance studies; to critically interrogate the differences, affinities, tensions, complementarities of these themes, concerns, concepts and so on; to critically assess their validity and effectiveness; to be able to perceive and analyse the often minute and imperceptible workings of power in all sorts of domains and practices that at first sight may seem to have little to do with relations of inequality, the governance by some of the conduct of others and states of unfreedom; to critically reflect on the commensurability of these themes, concerns, concepts and so on with, or their applicability to, their own work and lives.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course the students will:

- be familiar with major Marx- and Foucault-inspired themes, concerns, concepts, epistemologies, methodologies in contemporary power & resistance studies;

-  have enlarged their conceptual and methodological repertoire for analysing relations of power and resistance;

-  have acquired the intellectual means to detect and smoke out relations of power in the most unsuspecting places and spaces;

-  be able to critically evaluate key Marxian and Foucaultian inflections in critical engagements with power and resistance;

-  have learned to situate their own research in relation to the discussed themes, concerns, concepts and so on;


Each student will be assessed through a combination of seminar contributions, oral presentations and written work.

 The final grade is made up of the following components:

  1. Seminar attendance and participation (20%). Attendance is mandatory, and all participants (for credit & for audit) are expected to come to seminars prepared to discuss the readings for that day.
  2. Each student has to do 2 oral seminar presentations. The presentations are supposed to last about 20-30 minutes. The presentations will identify and summarise the main arguments of the assigned texts before they launch into a critical assessment, including reviewing and comparatively evaluating the texts’ ontological, epistemological, social-theoretical and methodological assumptions; their standards of validity; the main strengths and weaknesses of the arguments/research; the problems in the literature to which they their respond; the situatedness of the author(s); the extra-discursive contexts of the texts; etc. (each presentation equals 25%)
  3. Each student teams up with another participant. The 2-person teams will each write a literature review(s) of 2,000-3000 words on one of the topics covered in class. The papers will zero in on a particular literature stream and critically discuss their main arguments, their differences, their respective strengths and weakness, etc. (30%).