• 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
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2023
    See Future Offerings

Recent events in global politics have forced the memory of empire into the public domain. Equally, changes in the international system have prompted analysts of various stripes in the public domain to refer to the US, China, Europe or Russia as ‘empire’. These changes have been reflected in political science with American Empire Debate, a turn toward history and critical voices calling for the decolonisation of the discipline and a call for a recognition of the importance of empire in shaping global politics. A sub-discipline of comparative empire studies has emerged that overlaps history with IR and calls for ‘epistemic decolonisation’ have arisen alongside scholarship which offers colonisation as a viable policy option. With the disciplines of the social sciences being largely oriented around the state, this course takes as its focus empire as its referent object and asks: why has political science paid it so little attention? What is an empire and how do we theorise it and study it? What does the introduction of empire as a field of study mean for political science and how we understand the international system? This course takes empire as its object of inquiry and provides students with an interdisciplinary map for the various ways it has been theorised and understood. The aim of the course is to examine and assess in comparative frame the different kinds of analytical tools and methodological problems that might be applied to the study of empire. It will pose the theorisation of empire as a problem which will be explored conceptually, methodologically and empirically. 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:

  1. articulate an improved world historical understanding of the role that empire has played in shaping contemporary politics;
  2. demonstrate an improved inter-disciplinary understanding of empire as multi-faceted, multi-scaler and multi-sited object of inquiry;
  3. compare and assess different theoretical and normative perspectives on empire; and
  4. develop inquiry based skills in research practices of conceptualisation, theorisation and understanding methodological problems.

Other Information

Course Topics include:

Empire and the International System

Empire in Comparative Perspective

Emprie as polity versus patterns of empire

Classical Approaches to Economic Imperialism

Anti-colonial Nationalism and Postcolonial Theory

Finance Capital and Contemporary theories of imperialism

Empire, Communications and Cultural Imperialism

Empire, Philosophy and Knowledge - the Decolonial School

Globialsation as Empire? (Hardt & Negri)

Global Citeizenship, Global Governance and the Rules Based International Order?

Conclusion and assessment preparation

Indicative Assessment

  1. Essay Outline (500 words) (15) [LO 2,3,4]
  2. Research Essay (3000 words) (50) [LO 2,3,4]
  3. Applied Case Study (1500 words) (20) [LO 2,3,4]
  4. Workshop Participation (15) [LO 1,2,3,4]

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 over 12 weeks; and,
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

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.

Prescribed Texts

Burbank, J. and F. Cooper (2010). Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference. Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press.

Darwin, J. (2007). After Tamerlane: the Global History of Empire Since 1405. London, Allen Lane.

Moreton-Robinson, A. (2015). The White Possessive: Property, Power and Indigenous Sovereignty. Minneapolis & London, University of Minnesota Press.

Shilliam, R. (2021). Decolonising Politics: An introduction, Wiley.

Go, J. (2011). Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Doyle, M. (1986). Empires. Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

Alcock, S. E., et al., Eds. (2001). Empires; Perspectives from Archaeology and History. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Spruyt, H. (2016). Empires, Past and Present: The Relevance of Empire as an Analytic Concept. N. Parker. New York, Routledge.

Cox, M., Dunne, Timothy & Booth, Ken, Ed. (2001). Empires, Systems and States: Great transformations in international Politics. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Eisenstadt, S. N. (1963). The Political Systems of Empires. London, Collier MacMillan.

Waever, O. (1996). Europe's Three Empires: A Watsonian interpretation of Post-wall European Security. International Society After the Cold War. R. Fawn and J. Larkins. London, Macmillan: 224-225.

Munkler, H. (2005). Empires. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Shilliam, R., Ed. (2010). International Relations and non-Western Thought. Interventions. London & New York, Routledge.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2023 $4320
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5820
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
7339 24 Jul 2023 31 Jul 2023 31 Aug 2023 27 Oct 2023 In Person View

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