HomeChildren and Adolescents “Without Family” in Twentieth Century Conflicts

HomeChildren and Adolescents “Without Family” in Twentieth Century Conflicts

Children and Adolescents “Without Family” in Twentieth Century Conflicts

Enfants et adolescents « sans famille » dans les guerres du XXe siècle

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Published on Friday, January 18, 2019


This international conference focuses on children - hidden, displaced, refugee, deported, orphaned, enlisted... - who were separated from their family environment during the armed conflicts of the 20th century. Without excluding other dimensions of this issue, this call for papers concerns in particular: the notion of separation as an event, its causes, the process, its temporality; children’s experiences; and the traces, in particular, in the realm of memory, that these separations leave on individuals and societies.



Recent research on war has highlighted the role of children and adolescents as full-fledged social actors in 20th century armed conflicts: victims, and sometimes privileged targets of belligerents, direct participants, even combatants, they were also an object of dispute during conflicts and, later, in post-war negotiations. These new historiographical perspectives on the place and role of youth in the modern period are also based on an archival renewal, since they draw heavily upon sources produced by children and young people (e.g. autobiographical writings, drawings). As for the oral history of 20th century civil or interstate wars, an obvious generational effect, coupled with the gradual disappearance of those who experienced conflicts as adults, have led historians to increasingly rely upon those who witnessed them through child’s eyes.

From this body of research emerges a recurring figure, that of the child separated from his or her pre-war family environment. Child soldiers, hidden children, displaced persons, refugees, detainees or deportees, war orphans: these figures testify to the fact that separation is one of the major outcomes of war.  Even before the end of a given conflict, the issue of children “without family” may sometimes emerge as a central concern of contemporaries, while the return to peace often gives rise, on the part of States, religious or ethnic communities, non-governmental organizations, or simply individuals themselves, to major efforts to enable family reunification but also, in some cases, to reintegrate children into the communal or national fold. At the same time, one notes the development of strategies and experiments to ensure the material, emotional and psychological care of those who are unable to return home.

The time therefore seems ripe for historiographical synthesis but also to engage upon a more specific and collective reflection on the figure of the child, separated from his or her family by war. Conceived as a first step in this direction, this conference proposes to question this separation as an event (in political, social, and wartime contexts), as an experience (lived and possibly transmitted) and as a trace (marking both the adult life of those who have experienced it and, more generally, post-war societies). In addition, we ask that the very title of the conference be questioned, if not deconstructed: “without family” does not necessarily mean “without anyone,” and one of the goals of our exchanges will be to understand the juvenile experiences of separation in war by extending our gaze to the role of siblings, surrogate parents, social services or peer groups, who, to varying degrees, may potentially create family.

In general, this conference will provide an opportunity to break down three barriers: first, by crossing historical fields that still meet only too rarely (history of war, history of childhood and education), then, by comparing historical perspectives with other approaches from the social sciences, and finally by opening a dialogue between researchers, witnesses and archivists.

Submission instructions and evaluation information

The conference will be held on November 27, 28, 29, 2019 at the Archives Nationales (site de Pierrefitte-sur-Seine). Working languages will be French and English.

Doctoral students are encouraged to participate, either by submitting a proposal for a communication or a poster, which will be presented during a specific session.

Proposals for posters or communications (in French or English) should include the following :

  • Name
  • University or Institutional Affiliation
  • Title
  • Proposed title of the communication or poster
  • Abstract of the communication or poster, including its unpublished nature, methodology and sources (3500 characters maximum)
  • A short CV (one page)

Proposals should be sent no later than March 1, 2019

to the following address : colloqueenfantssansfamille@gmail.com

They will be evaluated by the members of the scientific committee and the conveners.


  • December, 20, 2018: call for papers
  • March, 1, 2019: submission deadline

  • April, 15, 2019: selection of communications and posters
  • November, 27, 28, 29, 2019: conference dates
  • Autumn 2020: publication of conference proceedings

Scientific Committee

  • Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
  • Sarah Fishman (University of Houston)
  • Mathias Gardet (Université Paris 8 - Vincennes - Saint-Denis)
  • Laura Lee Downs (European University Institute, École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
  • Philippe Nivet (Université de Picardie Jules Verne)
  • Brian Schiff (American University of Paris)
  • Nicholas Stargardt (Magdalen College, University of Oxford)
  • Vanessa Szollosi (Archives Nationales de France)
  • Annette Wieviorka (Centre national de la recherche scientifique)
  • Tara Zahra (University of Chicago)


  • Archives Nationales - 59 rue Guynemer
    Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, France (93380)


  • Friday, March 01, 2019

Attached files


  • enfant, adolescent, famille, guerre, séparation, mémoire

Information source

  • Antoine Rivière
    courriel : colloqueenfantssansfamille [at] gmail [dot] com


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

To cite this announcement

« Children and Adolescents “Without Family” in Twentieth Century Conflicts », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, January 18, 2019, https://doi.org/10.58079/11s1

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