• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr April Biccum
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2018
    See Future Offerings

The course explores the concept and form of empire through an engagement with recent European history and various normative theories regarding the effects, operations and functioning of empire. This course content proceeds in the following way. It begins with the American Empire debate which erupted in the mainstream press and scholarly publications to situate the return of the word 'empire' to the scholarly and popular lexicon in the late twentieth century. It combines a narrative historical perspective on European colonial history while exploring different theoretical approaches to understanding empires, what they are and how they function. These approaches will include perspectives from political sociology (such as SN Eisenstadt's The Political Systems of Empires), international relations (Michael Doyle and more recent Network centric IR approaches), and classical and current theories of economic imperialism (going back to Hobson, Schumpeter, and Lenin, but also, more recent Marxist contributions such as David Harvey and Hardt and Negri), and cultural, anthropological and historical perspectives (such as those found under the influence of post-colonial theory). The course will also look at other ways in which the words ‘empire’ and ’imperialism’ have been used as an analytic, such as cultural imperialism in early globalisation theory and Media or corporate empires. The aim of the course is to examine and assess in comparative frame the different kinds of analytical tools that might be applied to the study of empire. In the final section of the course, we return to contemporary debates around the US as a figure of empire, and we examine what might be at stake in these debates, (why empire, why now?). Finally, we explore what empire as a political form or category of analysis contributes to our understanding of global politics.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able
  1. Assess the extent to which empire as a category of analysis is adequate to describing contemporary global politics and North/South relations;
  2. Compare and assess different theoretical and normative perspectives on empire;
  3. Appreciate the potential contribution of postcolonial theory to political theory generally and a normative understanding of empire;
  4. Have developed some capacity to apply theoretical analysis to empirical cases.

Indicative Assessment

500 word essay outline: 10% LO 1, 2, 3 &
3000 word research essay: 60% LO 1 & 4
1500 word short assessments (3 x 500 words) 30% (10% each) LO 2 & 4

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from: a) 36 hours of workshops; and, b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed two first year Political Science (POLS) courses or with permission of the Course Convenor. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed POLS2109.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $3420
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $4860
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
10311 23 Jul 2018 30 Jul 2018 31 Aug 2018 26 Oct 2018 In Person N/A

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