De-Colonial and De-Cold War Dialogues on Childhood and Schooling

Through autobiographic, autoethnographic, and collective biography studies of our’ own childhoods and schooling in (post)socialist spaces, this project aims to write alternative histories to inform current research and thinking about the (post)socialist pasts, presents, and futures in different geographic locations.

In the history of modernity, children have commonly embodied societies’ hopes and desires for the future, central to the political, economic, and social (re)making of societies. In recent history, the socialist modernization project has stood out for its particular preoccupation with childhood as a construction related to the socialist utopian ideal, and children as an embodiment of a new social order. This utopian ideal and real children were often confused in socialist societies, which viewed children as icons of the revolution and model socialist citizens actively engaged in building a bright socialist future.

Studies on education in socialist societies often ignored social, economic, political, and cultural formations and everyday spaces where dissent, transgression, and resistance took place against official ideologies and mandates. They also obscured internal differences within the region and overlooked connections to and similarities with the West across different spheres of life, thus (re)producing a familiar yet inevitably one-sided image of the Cold War world through dichotomies such as capitalism/socialism, religious/atheistic, imperialist/liberationist.

In addition, political socialization literature saw children as manipulated or instructed by adults. Ironically, this blindness to children’s agency was common to post-war academic research about children on both sides of the Iron Curtain even though state socialism regarded children as political actors in Pioneer organizations or socialist camps. Political socialization research and the related pedagogies left out the politics of everyday life in which children led their lives.

Writing against this historical and epistemological background, our project seeks to decenter the ‘master narratives’ of both (post)socialism and modern childhood in order to open spaces for sharing more complicated and varied accounts. On the one hand, by moving beyond the implicit or explicit reproductions of Cold War binaries – perhaps most vividly captured in the spatial partitioning of the world according to the three-worlds ideology – we attempt to create spaces for sharing untold stories, giving new meanings to (personal) histories, and revisiting forgotten relations between space and time, while trying to avoid romanticization and nostalgia. On the other hand, by decentering narratives that constituted a binary of ‘Western’ and ‘socialist’ childhoods and the socialization frameworks that constructed children as passive receivers of societal norms, we aim to better understand our lived experiences re-narrated through memories.

Through this website we would like to share our ongoing research and invite contributions that offer new perspectives on childhoods in (post)socialist societies, memories of children’s everyday lives, as well as child-adult, child-state, and child-nature relations.