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Shaping Education in the (Post)Colonial World

L’éducation dans le monde (post)colonial

Actors, Paradigms, Entanglements 1880s-1980s

Acteurs, paradigmes, circulations 1880-1980

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Published on Thursday, November 10, 2016


Cette conférence propose d’examiner les politiques éducatives élaborées par les acteurs internationaux et impériaux dans le monde (post)colonial au cours du XXe siècle. Elle souhaite explorer les relations complexes entre acteurs, discours et pratiques éducatives d’une part et politiques de « développement » en Asie et en Afrique d’autre part. Trois axes de recherches seront privilégiés : l’examen des doctrines et des paradigmes spécifiquement pensés pour des contextes coloniaux ou postcoloniaux ; le rôle joué par l’éducation dans le cadre de la vaste gamme de projets et programmes visant à la modernisation des colonies et des pays « sous-développés » ; le rôle des acteurs indigènes et l’impact des politiques éducatives internationales et impériales dans différents contextes nationaux, régionaux et locaux.


International conference, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, 14-16 September 2017


This conference will examine the wide range of educational policies that have been elaborated upon by international and imperial actors in the (post)colonial world throughout the 20th century. If a large body of scholarly work has demonstrated that since the 19th century education has been one of the keystones of colonialism’s “civilising mission”, more recent studies have also showed its prominent role in the “mise en valeur” and “rational exploitation” of extra-metropolitan territories. Indeed, during the interwar period and most notably after the Second World War, the access to education and the struggle against illiteracy were strongly connected with the economic and social development of the colonial world, as well as with the nation-building of the countries that gained independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the current renewal of studies focusing on global histories of education, development and humanitarianism, surprisingly little has been said about the role of international and imperial educational projects aimed at fostering the economic, social and political modernisation of “Global South” countries, some of them playing a pivotal part in post-war development doctrines and plans. To fill this gap, this conference invites innovative and empirically based contributions discussing the relationship between “development” and 20th-century educational actors, discourses and practices in Asia and Africa. More precisely, we would like to analyse this problem from three broader and intertwined perspectives:

Issues and Paradigms

The first aim of the conference is to highlight the elaboration of pedagogical doctrines and paradigms specifically designed for colonial or postcolonial contexts. Since the interwar period, many labels have emerged in order to provide appropriate teaching content and methods in colonial or “underdeveloped” areas, such as “mass”, “adapted” and “fundamental” education. Most of them included special forms of vocational, technical and rural training. The raising of living standards of native people was one of the main declared goals of international and imperial educational enterprises in Asia and Africa during the 20th century, often serving as a legitimising tool for political and social domination. Particular attention will be given to the individuals and collective actors who have forged new paradigms (experts, missionaries, philanthropists, colonial servants) as well as to the institutional or informal spaces where ideas and models have circulated across national borders (international/imperial forums and conferences, colonial administrations, private networks and associations).

Projects and Policies

The second aim of this conference is to analyse the role that education has played in relation to the large array of policies aimed at modernising colonies and “underdeveloped” countries, from the very first imperial projects that attempted to raise living and labour standards at the beginning of the 20th century to the international and bilateral development aid programs established in the aftermath of the Second World War. Looking at imperial administrations, international organisations (League of Nations, International Bureau of Education, UNESCO, International Labour Organisation, etc.), religious bodies (Missionary societies, Holy See, World Council of Churches, etc.), NGO’s (Save the Children, women’s associations, youth movements, etc.) and socialist countries, the conference will shed light on the ways “underdeveloped” regions became an arena of competitive projects. Conflicts and clashes between global actors on the backdrop of inter-imperial rivalries, Cold War and decolonisation, as well as the establishment of new geopolitical strategies (such as intercolonial cooperation), will be particularly emphasised.

Impacts and Appropriations

This conference will finally act as a forum where scholars can attempt to assess the role of indigenous actors and the impact of international and imperial educational policies in various local, national and regional contexts. We hope to open a space of research that deals with the methodological problems related to the reception and the appropriation of pedagogical ideas and models in different geographical and political settings. This approach could thereby improve our understanding of the limits, the scope and the shifting meanings of the “right to education” in extra-European spaces, and more particularly in the colonial and postcolonial world.

Submission and Timeline

We encourage submissions from researchers in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, and we will pay particular attention to proposals from doctoral students and early post-doctoral scholars. Paper proposals in English or French (300 words max.), along with a short biography (10 lines max.), should reach us

by December 1 2016 at the latest.

Acceptance/rejection will be notified in January 2017. The conference languages are English and French.

Prior to the conference, participants are expected to submit a paper of up to 6,000 words, which will be pre-circulated to discussants and among all presenters. A publication is planned in the form of an edited book and/or a special issue in an academic journal. 

The transportation and accommodation of participants may be taken in charge by the conference’s budget, partly or totally, in the case where financial conditions allow it.

Please send abstracts to: 

Scientific Committee (provisional list)

  • Miguel Bandeira Jéronimo (University of Coimbra)
  • Hélène Charton (Sciences Po Bordeaux)
  • Hugo Dores (University of Coimbra-Catholic University of Portugal)
  • Rita Hofstetter (University of Geneva)
  • Damiano Matasci (University of Lausanne)
  • Sandrine Kott (University of Geneva)
  • Rebecca Rogers (University Paris Descartes, ISCHE President)
  • Eckhardt Fuchs (Georg Eckert Institute, Technical University Braunschweig, former ISCHE President)


  • Lausanne, Switzerland


  • Thursday, December 01, 2016

Attached files


  • éducation, colonialisme, postcolonial, développement, empires, organisation internationale, XXe siècle, circulation


  • Damiano Matasci
    courriel : damiano [dot] matasci [at] unige [dot] ch

Information source

  • Damiano Matasci
    courriel : damiano [dot] matasci [at] unige [dot] ch


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Shaping Education in the (Post)Colonial World », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, November 10, 2016,

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