The "Children as Objects and Agents of Change" or COAC network aims to investigate how (post)colonial ‘civilizing’ and ‘development’ projects engaged children as their main objects and agents of change.
Preliminary research indicates that the various colonial institutes worldwide shared similar intentions and strategies with respect to indigenous children. Children were the primary targets of ‘civilizing’ interferences and, subsequently often became agents of change themselves – whether in service of those ‘civilizing’ projects or diverting from them. These strategies were fuelled, supported, enforced and put into practice primarily by Protestant and Catholic missionaries.
These strategies closely resemble the settler colonial practices of ‘child removal’ in Australia and the United States that systematically separated indigenous children from their families and communities in order to initiate and socialize them into the western, Christian culture, norms and values of the colonizing country. However, as of yet, such deeply interfering strategies in continental European colonies have hardly been the subject of a more comprehensive and systematic historical analysis, nor linked to postcolonial ‘development’ policies. This project aims at doing so, and at creating a basis for sharing research and archival sources on this issue globally.