COOL CLASSES: “Third World Cinema: Desiring Freedom, Freeing Desires”

This course, which falls at the crossroads of English, visual studies, and comparative literature, explores the central role of film in imagining decolonization and desire as entangled narratives in the Third World.

Class name: “Third World Cinema: Desiring Freedom, Freeing Desires”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of English Reema Rajbanshi


Here’s what Rajbanshi had to say about her class:

This class offers an overview of key 20th- through 21st-century films from across the so-called Third World with a focus on Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and closes with a turn to the recent wave of “Fourth World” films. The current syllabus includes, for example, The Battle of AlgiersLagaan, and Vidas Secas. The selected films all grapple in some way with decolonization and sovereignty, whether that be in the more traditionally understood sense of national liberation or postcolonial desires around unrealized projects for marginal subjects within “new” nations. What this also means is that I ask students to trace the various ways desire appears, in both a collective sense as well as in more traditional terms like gender and sexuality, and how it is related if at all to a fuller sense of “freedom.”

My hope is that students, first and foremost, understand that most film in the world has come from the so-called Third World, yet many of us in the First World remain unaware of these “cinematic worlds,” even as Hollywood maintains global status—and what does this discrepancy tell us? Part of what I suggest is that the provocative critiques these films offer—of colonialism and its living legacies, of capitalist and heteropatriarchal violences—may be why these films remain on the edge of so many viewers’ horizons, even as our lives have been sustained by the work and dreams of these other worlds. Last but not least, by exploring other aesthetics, I always hope that students will feel inspired and empowered to expand a sense of what is beautiful and complicate narratives of power, especially those students who feel misrepresented and who are called to make art.

This class falls at the crossroads of English, visual studies, and comparative literature and was suggested by faculty as part of the exciting interdisciplinary initiatives happening at Haverford. I feel lucky to teach this course as it coalesces many of my research interests—global film, decolonization, gender, and race/caste—and because it is a chance to hear what about these visions of struggle and freedom resonate, or not, with this generation of students. As an undergraduate, I took courses on the cinemas of China and Brazil, and as a doctoral candidate I worked on contemporary Fourth World texts across global sites, but I think there is something to be said for a collective reading in this strange moment of late capitalism. As is so often the case, the Third and Fourth Worlds bear the brunt and the responsive visions sooner than we do, and so I wanted to think through what comes up with the amazing students here.



See what other courses the Department of English is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.