Children as objects and agents of change
The researchers of the COAC-network aim to systematically take stock of and analyse the ways in which non-settler colonial actors targeted local children as objects and agents of change. This project will result in a fine-grained analysis of the different ways in which children were made into targets and tools of colonial governance. Practices of appropriation (child removal), re-organisation of family, sexuality and kinship structures as well as instrumentalisation of the children involved after reaching adulthood will be analysed. By bringing researchers on a wide range of regions, periods, and institutes together, COAC will develop a more systematic view on different techniques and strategies involved with the engagement of children in (post-)colonial projects of change.
The links between colonial "civilising" practices and post-colonial humanitarian projects all too often remain implicit. Missionary involvement with children in particular may help exhibiting these colonial continuities, as opposed to colonial administrations, missionary activities often bridged colonial and postcolonial periods. Such continuities have been tentatively explored in NGO and global development policies since the 1960s, yet not specifically with respect to strategies and practices involving children. These policies, however, often take local children as an evident starting point for aspired changes, from a naturalised colonial concept of childhood as in need of rescue and development. Bringing together historical experts, specialists on global development studies and the position of children in development studies in order to research the relation between colonial structures, discourses, techniques and postcolonial humanitarian and human rights projects aimed at children.
The COAC-network is concerned with the consequences of former metropole-colony relation for the inequality in access to colonial sources and archives. While it is undisputed that colonial heritage concerns both former colonizing nations as well as former colonized nations, most relevant archival sources have been relocated to Europe after the independence of non-settler colonies. As these archives, missionary archives in particular, are vital for the analysis of colonizing projects involving children, the COAC-project aims to make a start with bridging this ‘heritage gap’. The project strives to:
- develop a digital infrastructure which brings together all relevant digitized material;
- actively invite relevant stakeholders (missionaries and their archival institutions) to make their archives digitally available;
- explore how to curate, link, enrich and present the data, with the aim of making this heritage globally available.