CGD hosts workshop on child removal in the Dutch East Indies

On Friday 26 November, the Centre for Gender and Diversity (CGD) hosted the first research workshop of the international network Children as Object and Agents of (Post-)Colonial Change (COAC). The workshop prepared a special issue for BMGN Low Countries Historical Review on the removal of indigenous children from their birth parents in the Dutch East Indies.

COAC aims at collaboration between scholars from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany to investigate how (post)colonial ‘civilizing’ and ‘development’ projects engaged children as their main objects and agents of change. Preliminary research indicates that despite the differences in colonial backgrounds, they shared similar intentions and strategies with respect to Indigenous children. First, children often were the primary targets of ‘civilizing’ interferences; second, they often became agents of change themselves – whether in service of those ‘civilizing’ projects or diverting from them. These strategies were fueled, 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.

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