RHEI no. 14 (end-2012 edition) “(Dis)placed childhoods. Forced migrations and youth welfare policies of the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Editorship of David Niget and Mathias Gardet
Most of the young people placed in institutions under child welfare policies were in fact displaced or “migrated”. Authorities and philanthropic societies have, over the past two centuries, proceeded to displace tens of thousands of children: they were separated from families who were deemed to be corrupting, kept away from their neighbourhoods and from socialising with criminals, moved away from towns and cities to fulfill a recurring dream of reversing rural exodus, which was at first only a fantasy and which then became more and more real.
But some children were displaced in a more systematic and planned way, not only in order to distance them from their homes, but also just to establish them elsewhere. Thus, some policies implemented a deliberate and thoroughgoing programme of mass displacement of juvenile populations, often beyond national borders, in accordance with colonial objectives, specific political situations. These programmes can be correlated to wars and regime changes, educational and ideological utopias or specific institutional strategies. Therefore, the justification for the removal of the children from their home environment was either to punish them or to establish a utopia.
Biopolitical issues have emerged : Was it about removing bad influences from the State or about regenerating the nation by transplanting its offspring in a healthy and promising substratum? In the name of the imperialism or colonisation, children from working-class English families were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia from the 1870s. In France, children in care and young offenders were sent to Algeria. Young Gypsies Aboriginals, Indians, Malaisians and Reunion islanders wereforcibly placed in foster care, boarding schools, or moved to England or France to achieve the “civilizing” goals of settlement or religious missions.
The totalitarian regimes of the 20th century radicalised and systematised these State interventions: Nazi Aryanism, communist propaganda, the terrorism of South American regimes, they all used the same excuse of child welfare to organise their collective kidnapping and forced migration. From 1919, through nascent international organisations, democracies tried to regulate juvenile population displacements, in accordance with fledgling international law and in the name of a new humanitarian morality. These displacements of children are therefore not merely the result of a political situation, or of chance selection of the most vulnerable victims. From the 19th to the 20th century, migration became a tool for the political management of populations, of which childhood is emblematic.
This colourful but little known history raises questions for any historian:
• What is the relationship between biopolitics and childhood? How does the increasing concern to pursue a population policy, with the future planning and management of human resources of contemporary societies in mind, lead to the formulation of childhood policies within the ambit of demographics, and more specifically the control of migration flows? How do humanitarian organisations become involved with these policies?
• What is the status of childhood within the creation of State policies? From the citizen to the “new man”, how does childhood and youth become interpreted into political meaning and absorbed into the heart of the nation? What about the notion of the Empire and child exploitation within this colonial enterprise?
• How are gender, class and ethnicity analysed within these questions relating to migration? Are young girls displaced with a view to populating? In the colonial enterprise, is the displacement of young orphans from cities to Africa an attempt to “whiten” the colonies, or to perpetuate, with regard to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, ethnically homogenous colonies? What about acculturation goals reflected by the displacement of “indigenous” children? Finally, which social class are these state interventions and charities aiming for? Is it to shape a new colonial or political elite using deprived children?
• What organisations did support these displacements? Displacement policies, exclusive from the State, also resulted from the intervention of private, philanthropic and religious or political parties. What kind of devices did these displacement policies put in place? What kind of institutions? Were they open, closed, educational or punitive? Did they involve institutional violence and did they include compensation policiesin recent years?
• What expertise was involved in this undertaking? Were demographic and economic reasons used? What was the role of social work in the identification of those to be displaced? Were medicine and psychoanalytic methods used to select young people?
In the last instance, submissions for publication in this edition of the journal RHEI are invited to address the question of these forced migration policies. They should offer a better understanding of how (dis)placed children become instruments of power, tools in international relations and political subjects without political rights.
Proposals for papers (in French or English) should contain name, institutional affiliation, title, abstract of 250-500 words, short CV and e-mail address.
Deadline for submissions of proposals: October 31, 2011.
Deadline for submissions of final papers (in French or English): February 1st, 2012.
Release date: November 2012
Contact address for proposals and information: email@example.com