Transformative history education in conflict-affected contexts


Project period: September – November 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Lizzi Milligan, Dr Peter Manning
University of Bristol: Dr Julia Paulson
Cardiff University: Dr Kate Moles
University of Exeter: Dr Catriona Pennell

We address the GW4 grand challenge ‘social justice and inequality’ and the associated GCRF challenges ‘human rights, good governance and social justice’ and ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ by bringing together GW4 expertise in education, history and memory studies to develop new, interdisciplinary answers to pressing questions about how history education can contribute to meeting these challenges.

From a social justice perspective (Fraser, 2003; Tikly and Barrett, 2011), quality education can be conceptualised as transformative for individuals, communities and societies. However, in conflictaffected
contexts, education is often a generator of conflict and something that itself needs to be transformed (Davies, 2004; Novelli et al, 2015).

Sustainable peacebuilding requires not just the cessation of direct violence, but also the transformation of conflict dynamics by addressing
structural and cultural violence (Galtung, 1969), including the ways in which they are perpetuated in and through education. History education is often a space where such violence is perpetrated, for instance when it promotes exclusive group identities, silences particular groups, cultures and experiences, or legitimises conflict and injustice. For these reasons, curriculum revision is a regular part of post-conflict peacebuilding.

However, the evidence is mixed on the contributions this makes
to peace and social justice at individual and societal levels (Paulson, 2015). In part, this is due to a limited understanding of what a transformative history education might consist of.

Transformative history education would entail learning about past conflict in order to transform its legacies in the present and build peace into the future. To develop such an approach, we need to
understand how history education interacts with, informs and is informed by wider social processes of memory and reconciliation. This is an interdisciplinary challenge that cannot be addressed by educational researchers and policymakers alone, though most research to date comes from these perspectives. Our network brings together GW4 educationalists, historians and social scientists with expertise in conflict and social memory to develop conceptual thinking around transformative history education. The network also brings together international partners from four conflict affected contexts to share perspectives and lay the groundwork for future proposals to the GCRF.