CFP – Instituting, Forgetting, and Remembering: (Post-)Colonial Practices of Child Removal in Children’s Media

Call for Papers: Special Issue of International Research in Children’s Literature (
Editors: Lies Wesseling ( and Mavis Reimer (

Abstracts due: 1 April 2019

The (forcible) relocation and re-education of Indigenous children at the peripheries of empire was a wide-spread form of colonial governance. Children were considered to be more malleable than their adult counterparts, meaning that colonial regimes considered it possible to ‘take the Indian out of the child’, or to ‘breed the color out of aboriginals’ or to transform Indigenous children up to the points at which they could make themselves useful as local intermediaries between the coloniser and colonised. Thus, Indigenous children have often figured as both targets and tools of Western civilising projects, as a tentative solution to the perennial problem of how to govern vast nations by means of a relatively small number of colonial administrators who, moreover, often lacked in-depth knowledge of the languages and cultures of the nations they were supposed to rule.

As Karen Sánchez-Eppler has argued convincingly in Dependent States, colonial strategies for governing the peripheries of empire and pedagogical regimes for raising metropolitan children were interdependent. Empires were ‘raised like children’ and children were ‘civilized like savages.’ Children’s literature and affiliated media such as textbooks played a pivotal role in instituting, forgetting, and remembering the systematic instrumentalisation of Indigenous children in (post-)colonial contexts. For instance, educative discourses bent on piquing metropolitan children’s interest in the colonies in order to recruit the next generation of colonial administrators, missionaries, and entrepreneurs. After decolonisation, these discourses were complicit in creating a silence around the colonial past. At the same time, however, these discourses and texts also preserved the past and eventually contributed to the disruption of the silence about the ‘stolen generations,’ ‘lost birds,’ deracinés.

This special issue aims to analyse how children’s literature and affiliated media instituted, silenced, and remembered forcible child removal from an international comparative perspective, including but also moving beyond the conventional focus on the former British Commonwealth. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following issues:

  • How was the relocation and re-education of Indigenous children ‘sold’ to metropolitan children?
  • What versions of ‘family’ and ‘family values’ are propagated by children’s media that targets Indigenous children at the peripheries of empire?
  • How did children’s literature and textbooks respond to decolonisation?
  • Have exotic colonial themes, settings, and plot structures vanished from children’s media? If so, when did this occur?
  • When do efforts to re-present and remember child removal through children’s media gain ascendancy over silence and oblivion? How does children’s fiction relate to historiography in this respect?
  • Can the responses and resistances of Indigenous children to their removals and relocations from family homes be disinterred from the silences of history? What work has been done and what work remains to be done to ensure that their voices are heard?
  • Is the question of the ‘decolonisation of childhood’ still topical? How do contemporary forms of neo-colonialism, post-colonialism, and anti-colonialism impact on the cultural construction of childhood as articulated by children’s media?

We particularly welcome transnational comparative approaches.

Abstracts due: 1 April 2019; completed papers 1 October 2019, publication July 2020.