Understanding and overcoming conflict Abstracts Section IV – History teaching and textbooks in Africa and Asia

In der vierten Sektion geht es sowohl um historisches Lernen, Schulbücher, historische Objekte und Ausstellungen in postkolonialen Kontexten als auch geschichtskulturelle Medien in Ostasien und ein Schulbuch als Versuch des peacebuilding im Israel-Palestina-Conflict.

The fourth section examines history teaching, textbooks, historical objects and exhibitions in a post-colonial perspective as well as different media of representing history in East Asia and a textbook as means of bringing peace to the Palestinian-Isreali conflict.

Chair: Daniel Schönbauer

Wazi Apoh, 2.00 pm – 2.45 pm
Examining the Restitution of African Objects and Remains in the Context of Post-Colonial Peacebuilding
Peacebuilding as a type of conflict resolution is a recurring dialectical phase in human history. A peaceful context, be it ephemeral or persistent, can be understood as a utopian or egalitarian context devoid of chaos and conflicts. Countless histories have shown how our human race has been bedevilled with warfare, fights, imperial dominations and their aftermaths. Such conflicts often result from scarcity and from the competition for either essential resources needed for survial, or for amenities that is (not) needed for human pride or vanity. The knowledge about countless histories of conflict and peacebuilding initiatives have to some extent helped to quell the resurgence of conflicts in some contexts. However, in other contexts the very same knowledge has been used to start and exacerbate conflicts. Must it always be so? How can we use historical knowledge to negotiate productive settlements that break the cycle of violence? In the case of conflicts associated with imperial domination, be they between local groups that dominate and subjugate each other or between powerful foreign forces and the indigenous societies in Africa they used to dominate, the roles of victors and vanquished were always ephemeral and alternating. Documented records and oral historical narratives have revealed the atrocities that local and foreign dominating forces commited against the victimised local societies. Besides depriving them of their self-worth, exploiting them through slave labour and extracting mineral resources from local lands, dominators often looted or under dubious circumstances acquired and took away objects of cultural value and skeletal remains of members of the local societies. Today, there is an active discouse around the globe about issues of restitution and repatriation of illegally acquired cultural objects and skeletal remains from Euro-American Museums and laboratories to their owners and source regions. I interrogate these discourses and the aspirations for such returns from an African perspective to exemplify them as a possible kind of settlement needed for post-colonial peacebuilding.


Florian Helfer, 2.45 pm – 3.30 pm
Colonial violence in German and English history textbooks
Since the early 2000s, the public interest in the heritage of colonial history has gained significant momentum all over Europe. Discussions about the provenance and restitution of objects stolen by colonial agents, but also much further-reaching, general questions about historical responsibility and reconciliation between former colonial powers and the independent nations and people that used to be colonies today are more intense than ever. An analysis of the current colonial memory discourse is only viable if it takes the inherently transnational character of these debates into careful consideration. School textbooks are a particularly interesting field of research about processes of peacebuilding because they can be understood as both an expression of the image a society constructs of its own past, and as constituents of national identity. In this regard, they always have to take a stance towards other countries and the intertwined history their own nation shares with them. Based on this, my paper seeks to shed some light on the questions a) in what ways the history of colonialism and imperialism is represented in German and English textbooks, and b) in how far textbooks contribute to understanding and overcoming a shared past that in manifold ways is shaped by injustice and violence.

A qualitative diachronic analysis of two well-established German textbooks series since roughly 1989/90 shows that the depiction of German colonialism and the former colonies has changed considerably, especially during the early 2000s. In the years following the 100th anniversary of the Herero and Nama genocide in 2004, the change of the postcolonial discourse in the public debate had a particularly strong impact on textbooks. Since then, textbooks increasingly attempt to deconstruct colonial narratives which results in less stereotypical depictions of Africa and African people than before. Nevertheless, implicit mental conceptions of Africa that were formed during colonial times still exert an influence on today’s textbook depictions. Also, the curricular framework puts a strong emphasis on imperialism and its consequences in the advent of the Great War whereas an analytical understanding of colonialism, its global dimensions and transnational interrelations comes short.

In the United Kingdom, the A-Level curriculum has much less concrete specifications regarding content and grants the exam boards and schools more freedom in translating governmental guidelines to teaching units. In practice, this has led to a quantitative marginalisation of the colonial history of the British Empire and its colonies in advanced secondary education. This paper qualitatively analyses several A-Level textbooks for those few thematic courses that do address colonial history. In a second step, a comparison of the different modes of representation of colonial violence in German and English textbooks might give us an idea about the different national (post-)colonial discourses – and, maybe, possible alternatives.


Simon Ebert, 3,30 pm – 4.15 pm
Curating the Past. Memorialization in post-apartheid South-Africa
Post-Apartheid South Africa was and probably still is, as other postcolonial African states after independence, a state searching for a national identity. In 1994, a system ended that had not only structured nearly every aspect of life for 46 years, but that also reflected more than 300 years of colonization, segregation, totalitarianism and resistance. This had produced different narratives of its past and its histories. Shaping a nation out of multiple and sometimes conflicting identities emerged as a problem in this new South Africa, addressing issues such as the incorporation of former victims and perpetrators, and the frictions between the former liberation movements.

Collective memory can be a key to create a national identity, however, in a multicultural society in transition, memory and national identity can be ambiguous concepts. This paper will examine the strategies of memorialization in post-apartheid South Africa within the nation-building process. It focuses on the question in which way the new South African state sought to construct a master narrative as a means to realign collective memory with a new national identity. In this context public memory and history have become crucial factors. I will illustrate how museums, memorials and heritage sites are part of an extensive practice of nation building and serve to foster the state-promoted narratives in post-apartheid South Africa. Furthermore, I will discuss problems of memorialization in the service of a political agenda in order to shape a national identity. The post-apartheid process of memorialization is accompanied by controversies surrounding the representations of the past. I will question, to what extend the historical master narrative is contested by counter-narratives, which provide competing constructions of the past and challenge the state’s claims to hegemony in the nation-building project.


Hisaki Kenmochi, 4.45 pm – 5.30 pm
Perspective d’histoire publique en Asie de l’Est : les livres d’histoires, les musées, les (télé)films
[Abstract will follow]


Sami Adwan, 5.30 pm – 6.15 pm
Dual Narratives approach to teaching history : A bottom up formula to peace education in Palestinian-Israeli Context
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues over self-determination, territory, natural resources, holy places and security. Contradictory goals and interests in different domains have to be addressed in conflict resolution. Resolution of these disagreements is made more difficult by powerful socio-psychological forces which fuel distrust and hostility. These forces include beliefs, perceptions, images, myths or attitudes about the rival, the collective self and the conflict. Such beliefs and images are often part of each society’s national narrative, and these narratives can be important as societies continue to marshal human and material resources demanded by the conflict. The narratives are propagated through many years by various channels of communication and various institutions in each involved society, including the education system. However, these collective narratives often leave little room for the acknowledgement of the historical past, culture, and future aspirations of the other collective. Thus, while these narratives help sustain cultures of wars/conflicts, they also stand as a major obstacle to any peace-making process and later the processes of reconciliation. The narratives may need to be modified in order to facilitate building a new reality of peace. In this endeavor there is a need to modify school textbooks which may serve as one agent among others in socializing new generations toward peace and co-existence.

Researches on Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks found that on both sides, schoolbooks include only their sides of the history with complete omission of the other side’s history, culture, tradition and legitimacy. They only focus on describing wars and conflict between both rivals and do not talk about the peaceful co-existence of Jews, Muslims and Christian in Palestine. Each other’s maps do not show the geography of the other side, they only use the names of cities and towns that are recognized in their language and the border between the two political entities is missing in both sides maps. Each present itself in good images doing only good things while the other is accused of doing the wrong things.

This lecture focuses on the program that was initiated by The Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) on how to move teaching the historical narratives from mono-perspective to dual perspective and hopefully toward multi-perspectives.


+++ The conference has been cancelled due to the unforeseeable spread of Coronavirus +++

Zitierweise / How to cite:
Peter Geiss, Michael Rohrschneider: Abstracts Section IV – History teaching and textbooks in Africa and Asia, 09.03.2020, in: Histrhen. Rheinische Geschichte wissenschaftlich bloggen, http://histrhen.landesgeschichte.eu/2020/03/peaceteachingbonn-section-four/


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