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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3735 Crime and Punishment in Colonial Southern Asia

20 creditsClass Size: 25

Module manager: Dr Ria Kapoor

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Colonial rule was not only maintained by brute military power but also by subtler methods of discipline and control: through legal codes, penal practices and criminological discourses. This unit examines the history of colonial criminality in South and Southeast Asia. As we will see, ideas of criminality and methods of disciplining criminals took distinctive forms in colonial contexts, in no small part because of notions of racial difference at the heart of the European imperial project. We will explore this interaction examining as we interrogate the related histories of systems of punishment (such as colonial prisons, corporal punishment, transportation, police violence, and executions) alongside particular crimes (including prostitution, corruption, piracy, and murder). The unit will explore how historians have approached the history of crime, and the resulting historiographic debates. We will consider what crime meant under colonial rule. Was crime a form of resistance? How was crime interpreted and defined? What was the response to crimes committed by Europeans? How were convicts treated? We will also think about the types of law and punishment the colonial rule brought about.


By the end of the unit you will have:
• A familiarity with the broad history of colonial South and Southeast Asia
• A firm grip on the historiography on crime and punishment in colonial situations
• The ability to deconstruct discourses of 'criminality' and 'race'
• A critical understanding of Foucauldian concepts, such as 'discipline' and 'bio-politics'
• The confidence to compare different colonial situations
• A sophisticated understanding of the nature of colonial power

Learning outcomes
This module will:
• Provide you with an understanding of general histories of colonial rule in southern Asia
• Equip you with the conceptual tools to think critically about crime
• Build your confidence in discussing historiographic debates about complex theoretical issues, particularly the work of Michel Foucault
• Enable you to develop your own understanding of how power operated in colonial contexts and consider its legacies


1). Introduction to Empire in Asia
2). Theorising Crime, Punishment and Colonialism
3). The Law
4). The Police
5). The Criminal
6). Criminality
7). The Prison
8). Other Punishments
9). White Crime
10). Policing Decolonisation
11). Postcolonial Legacies: Law and Disorder?

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will read extensively each week in order to prepare for class discussion. They will also have to prepare for two blog posts etc and the essay.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Ensuring all students participate in class discussion, evaluating understanding in the blog posts, assessing essays

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 word essay due Noon on Monday of Exam Week 160.00
AssignmentStudents to choose between a verbal presentation (15 minutes), a reflective log (2,000 words) or a 3 x 500 word blog post. All due by Teaching Week 740.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:40:28


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