Contemporary Social Theory

Contemporary Social Theory
Weight of the course
Course Leader
Teaching Methods
Nahda Shehada
Nahda Shehada, Dubravka Zarkov
Lectures, Tutorials
Written exam 100%
Josée Haanappel
Learning objectives
By the end of the course, participants will have sufficient understanding of contemporary social
theory. They will be introduced to the main theoretical debates in and about social theory and the
influence of social/political context in developing various perspectives in conceptualising social
Course description
The course is meant to familiarize students with the latest debates in and about social theory. It
will focus on some perspectives that have been most influential – and sometimes controversial –
in the debate.
During your stay at ISS, you will be exposed to many different and often conflicting theoretical
perspectives. This course attempts to help you situate those perspectives in the wider framework
of social theory. The course will start by mapping out the analytical parameters and key
contemporary theories and perspectives in the field. The course will then move on to discuss the
Critical Social Theory developed by Frankfurt school. Cross-cultural differences are noticeable in
the way in which new perspectives emerge. Thus, we will examine Post-colonial theory and its
most influential figures, such as Edward Said and his ‘Orientalism’ and the Modernity/Coloniality
debate from Latin America. The course will put these thinkers from the Global South in dialogue
with prominent thinkers from the critical and deconstructive tradition in Europe. The final session
will be dedicated to the somewhat optimistic view of Santos, who advocates the ‘ecology of
knowledge’ as a way to end human misery.
Indicative readings
Escobar, Arturo 2007, "Worlds and Knowledges Otherwise" in Cultural Studies 21:2, 179-210.
Foucault, Michel, 2002, "Introduction" in The Archaeology of Knowledge, London: Routledge pp
Sachs, Wolfgang (ed.) (1992) The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power.
London: Zed.
Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (ed.) (2007) Another Knowledge Is Possible: Beyond Northern
Epistemology. London & New York: Verso.
Williams, Patrick and Laura Chrisman (eds) (1993) Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory:
A Reader. London & New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
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