Call for expressions of interest in UNESCO's history
Call for expressions of interest
The International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO History Project is planning to organize three international conferences in 2009-2010, with the common purpose of encouraging and stimulating historical research and reflections on UNESCO’s programmes, activities and orientations from 1945 to date. These three conferences are a follow up to the international symposium on UNESCO’s history that took place in Paris on the occasion of the Organization’s 60th anniversary in November 2005. Background information on the UNESCO History Project and on the composition of its International Scientific Committee is available at: www.unesco.org/archives
The Committee has selected the following three themes:
1. “Towards the Transnational History of International Organizations: Methodology / Epistemology”. This conference will pay special attention to UNESCO as a case-study, and take a broader view of methodological issues relating to the study of the history of international organizations. The conference will take place in Spring 2009. The location and exact date will be confirmed in February 2008.
2. “UNESCO and the Cold War”. UNESCO was an important arena for the Cold War, but it was also an actor with an agenda of its own. The purpose of the conference is to explore different historical perspectives concerning the extent of the Cold War’s impact on UNESCO and vice versa. The conference is scheduled to take place in Autumn 2009. The location and exact date will be confirmed in February 2008.
3. “UNESCO and Issues of Colonization and Decolonization”. Among UNESCO’s founding Member States were both colonial powers and former colonies. This Conference invites students and scholars utilizing a range of methodological approaches and intellectual frameworks to reflect on UNESCO’s historical role, relevant orientations and actions in regard to colonialism and the era of decolonization. The conference is scheduled to take place in Spring 2010. The location and exact date of the conference will be confirmed in February 2008.
The Research Call: 2007-2010
The International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO History Project invites expressions of interest from historians and other students and scholars who have an interest in the history of UNESCO in general and in one or more of the three selected themes of transnationalism, the Cold War, and colonization and decolonization. Applicants should submit an abstract of approximately 100-500 words detailing their research interests, and a short cv, along with full contact information. Applicants do not have to be historians of UNESCO or international organizations, but they should have a commitment to pursuing research which draws on the archives and histories of international organizations.
Further to the replies received, the Committee will decide on the sessions to be organized, the papers to be presented and the detailed programme of each conference. The costs of travel and accommodation of the speakers will be covered. A selection of papers presented will be published in English and French, when the conferences have taken place. The main results of these conferences will also be presented at the 21st International Congress of Historical Sciences, which will take place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in August 2010.
Please e-mail the completed ‘expression of interest form’ to the Coordinator of the UNESCO History Project, Mr. Jens Boel (email@example.com), to whom you may also address enquiries concerning the submission process. Please send a copy of your “expression of interest” message to the Chairman of the International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO History Project, Professor Jean-François Sirinelli, Director of the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Politiques, Paris (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please submit your response before 12 January 2008.
This will enable the International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO History Project to take your proposal into consideration when planning the programme of the different conferences at its meeting on 18 January 2008. Proposals received after 12 January but before 30 April 2008 will also be considered for inclusion in one of the three conferences.
Theme 1: “Towards the Transnational History of International Organizations: Methodology / Epistemology”
Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has played an important role in advancing methodological and epistemological discussions in the field of historical studies, from its post-Second World War initiation of the ‘History of Humanity’ project and the first Journal of World History, to its current engagement with the trans-Atlantic histories of slavery and migration. This call for expressions of interest is directed at scholars who are keen to bring questions of this sort to the study of international organizations, with a special, although not exclusive, reference to UNESCO. We are inviting historians with a developed or developing interest in methodological and epistemological debates surrounding transnational history to contribute to a network currently being established by UNESCO, and to express their interest in participating in a conference which will take place in Spring 2009.
While transnational history has now taken hold in numerous fields, challenging the dominance of the nation-state as the framework for the investigation of past lives, experiences, and events, it has hardly touched the traditional field of international studies. Reflection on the transnational context in which international organizations have come into existence and operated raises challenging questions for not only national studies, but also for international and diplomatic history. It places the emphasis on the realm in which organizations such as UNESCO came to life, which on the one hand was firmly rooted in the context of the continued salience of nation-states, but on the other inspired and required other kinds of political, social and cultural spheres of agency and knowledge. Our aim is to encourage innovative work that brings the study of UNESCO and international organizations into the mainstream of international and national histories and interdisciplinary approaches.
We are particularly interested in proposals that engage any of the following themes:
The International History of International Organizations
Subjectivities and Subjects
Theme 2: “UNESCO and the Cold War”.
This conference aims at laying the groundwork for a new interpretive synthesis of UNESCO’s history, with a particular emphasis on the role and place of UNESCO in the Cold War, based on multi-archival evidence and existing scholarship of international organizations. Scholars are invited to explore the history of UNESCO not only as a forum for the East-West ideological contest but also as an entity which distinctly influenced this struggle for hearts and minds. Approaches to the theme should emphasize transnational perspectives, such as those of different national actors, non-governmental organizations, activist groups, etc., throughout the world. Studies incorporating broader aspects of the history of UNESCO, including the Organization’s work for international understanding, its efforts in promoting intellectual cooperation, and its various initiatives in the field of education, science and culture, which unfolded at UNESCO in measure with the Cold War, are also welcome.
Among the questions that might be taken up at the conference is whether or not East-West relations came to be redefined as a result of UNESCO's initiatives, for instance through its sponsorship of inter-civilizational conferences and the publication of its world history series. The role of UNESCO as a meeting place for scientists, scholars and a wide variety of professional groups from all parts of the world, including countries on opposing sides of the Iron Curtain, could be analyzed from this perspective. Papers might also address the Cold War dimension of UNESCO’s strategic undertakings, for instance, in the field of communication policies, and the Organization’s projects in individual Member States, in particular in developing countries and newly independent states.
We strongly encourage the use of a distinct variety of sources and archives.
Theme 3: “UNESCO and Issues of Colonization and Decolonization”.
The history of UNESCO cannot be written without reflection on its relationship to the mass decolonization of both peoples and nations which occurred after 1946. How did these phenomena intertwine with developments at UNESCO, including its: orientation, themes, structures and functions, financing, leadership, and conflicts at the heart of the institution and its competing networks? This is a multi-faceted history. Even in terms of the actors involved, questions emerge concerning not only the relationships between the colonizers and the colonized, but the role which the institution of UNESCO itself played in decolonization.
What was UNESCO’s role in the explosive debates concerning the future of these colonial empires, whose (former) masters were among the powers exercising the greatest influence over UNESCO’s programs and finance, and whose historic legitimacy was further ingrained by their status as founding members of the organization? How did this institution, which was supposed to dedicate its actions and resources towards the promotion of education and culture for the purposes of peace, position itself in regard to national liberation movements that sometimes expressed themselves through violence?
There is no doubt that UNESCO made numerous contributions, in diverse forms, to the construction and the consolidation of the new nation states which emerged through the process of decolonization. In doing so, UNESCO’s actions contributed to the achievement and consolidation of national independence. Within both bilateral and multilateral frameworks, UNESCO established numerous programmes and projects, or endorsed initiatives to help these new states, particularly in the area of education and training. At the same time, decolonization deeply influenced ideas and developments in imperial centers. In what ways did UNESCO facilitate the shaping of post-colonial thought in former colonial, as well as metropolitan spheres?
Such transnational aspects of UNESCO’s history in relation to decolonization remain largely unexplored. For this reason, expressions of interest are especially encouraged from researchers engaging in transnational approaches to UNESCO and decolonization, including themes such as:
UNESCO’s engagement with notions of race;
UNESCO series of Histories;
UNESCO’s role in regard to colonial questions and struggles for national liberation;
Decolonization in Africa and Asia and the impact upon UNESCO;
“Decolonizing the minds” – the roles of culture and education;
Decolonization and the future of cultural dialogues.
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