RHEI no. 14 (end-2012 edition)
Call for Contributions
“(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
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
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
review 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: October 31, 2011.
Contact address for proposals and information: