Internationalism(s) and Education during the Cold War. Actors, Rivalries and Circulations

Internationalism(s) and Education during the Cold War. Actors, Rivalries and Circulations

Raphaëlle Ruppen Coutaz, University of Lausanne; Damiano Matasci, University of Geneva
University of Lausanne
From - Until
24.06.2021 - 25.06.2021
Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists

In the wake of the recent transnational and global turn in historical research, several studies have focused on the history of internationalisms in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the pioneers of reflection in this field, Akira Iriye, provides a very broad definition of this concept, including any activity aimed at promoting international cooperation (Cultural Internationalism, 1997). Accordingly, “internationalism” can refer both to the expression of an ideal and to a practice rooted in a multitude of fields, thus responding to a wide variety of motivations.

Education is certainly a fertile ground that can help us come to grips with the actors, scope, and occasional contrasting logics of this phenomenon. Several researchers have traced its history from its emergence in the 19th century to its institutionalization in the first half of the 20th century. However, not much research has been focused on educational internationalism, as it developed during the Cold War. Yet, this period provides an exceptional framework for understanding the evolution and metamorphosis of the processes of internationalization of knowledge and educational practices, whether in the school sphere or in the extra-curricular environment. Driven by a multitude of national, international, and imperial actors, these are articulated through the ideological confrontation between the blocs of the East and the West, but also through the challenges posed by European integration, decolonization, the emergence of "third worldism" and the attempts to regulate international relations (maintenance of peace and security, etc.). Therefore, the aim of this conference is to lay the foundations for a global history of educational internationalism, tracing its forms, its trajectories (North-South, East-West, South-South), as well as its impact on the political framework and the balance of power determined by the “global Cold War”. On the one hand, our ambition is to deepen and to extend recent historiographical reflections which highlighted the porosity of the "Iron Curtain", the ambiguities of the processes of “Americanization” and "Sovietization" of Western societies as well as the interactions between the two blocs and the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. On the other hand, this meeting also aims at (re)introducing the European paradigm as a key issue in the history of the second half of the 20th century.

We want to bring together contributions from junior or confirmed researchers around three main lines of research:

1. “Cold War warriors”? The actors of internationalisms in education

Be they state or non-state actors, international governmental or non-governmental organizations, faith-based, professional, political or activist groups, or youth organizations, philanthropic organizations, missionaries or networks of experts, it is first of all necessary to investigate the role of these actors as transmission belts of practices, values and internationalist standards. This will involve examining their ambitions, revealing their operation, their networking and their occasional surprising links and connections. This first line of research therefore aims to better understand the different manifestations of internationalism, to bring out the various nerve centers where it unfolds and to emphasize the variety of impulses that underlie it (communism, anti-communism, europeanism, pacifism/humanism, liberalism, post-imperialism, etc.).

2. Internationalist educational models and paradigms

What are the educational models and paradigms that are at the heart of internationalist campaigns? To what extent are the different internationalist educational conceptions promoted defined in terms of and in response to other models? How can they coexist, compete or contradict national standards, for example? This second line of research aims to explore differences, but also intersections, entanglements and ideological compromises between different forms of internationalism. It will also examine how the phenomena of transfer, circulation and hybridization have shaped the various school policies put in place from an internationalist perspective (education for peace, human rights, international understanding, Europe, etc.).

3. The instruments, practices, and outcomes of educational internationalisms

What are the instruments and educational materials that can promote circulations and thus make internationalist ambitions a reality? The revision of textbooks, the establishment of international meetings, school and student exchanges; the organization of twinnings, study trips, and school exhibitions; as well as the implementation of development aid policies in countries of the “Global South”, are all strategies developed by the actors invested in promoting educational internationalism and/or internationalist principles. The objective of this third line of research is therefore to confront ourselves with the reality of internationalist initiatives in order to assess not only the outcomes, but also the resistance they encounter.

The working languages of the conference will be French and English. Communications expressed in one language will have to be supported and augmented by a simultaneous digital presentation in the other language. The papers of the communications (approximately 6,000 words) will be submitted a few weeks before the start of the event. A collective publication (in English and/or French) is planned.

Keynote lectures will be provided by Rita Hofstetter and Joëlle Droux (University of Geneva), as well as by Giles Scott-Smith (Leiden University).

The transport and accommodation of participants will be taken care of, fully or partially, depending on the results of the grant applications. Priority will be given to young researchers.

Scientific Committee

Sandra Bott (University of Lausanne); Olivier Dard (Sorbonne University); Joëlle Droux (University of Geneva); Matthieu Gillabert (University of Fribourg); Charles Heimberg (University of Geneva); Rita Hofstetter (University of Geneva); Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo (University of Coimbra); Sandrine Kott (University of Geneva); Angela Romano (European University Institute); Stéphanie Roulin (University of Fribourg); Xavier Riondet (University of Lorraine); Nadine Ritzer (Pedagogische Hochschule Bern); Janick Schaufelbuehl (University of Lausanne); Giles Scott-Smith (Leiden University); Ludovic Tournès (University of Geneva); François Vallotton (University of Lausanne).

Submission terms and schedule

September 15, 2020: Please send proposals to the following addresses:, Abstracts (300 words max. in word or pdf files) will include a title, a specific issue, a bibliography (5 references max.) and a short bio-bibliographic notice (15 lines max.).

December 2020: Acceptance notifications after a selection process conducted with the help of members of the Scientific Committee.

June 11, 2021: Papers (6,000 words) will be shared amongst colleagues attending the conference.

June 24-25, 2021: International conference on the campus of the University of Lausanne.

September 15, 2021: Final version of the papers for publication.

Selective bibliography

Anceau Eric, Boudon Jacques-Olivier, Dard Olivier (dir.), Histoire des internationales : Europe, XIXe-XXe siècles, Paris : Nouveau Monde éditions, 2017.

Babiracki Patryk, Jersild Austin (eds.), Socialist Internationalism in the Cold War. Exploring the Second World, London/New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016.

Bagchi Barnita, Fuchs Eckhardt, Rousmaniere Kate (eds.), Connecting Histories of Education. Transnational and Cross-Cultural Exchanges in (Post) Colonial Education, New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014.

Droux Joëlle, Hofstetter Rita (dir.), Globalisation des mondes de l’éducation. Circulations, connexions, réfractions, XIXe-XXe siècles, Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015.

Iriye Akira, Cultural Internationalism and World Order, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Kott Sandrine, « Par-delà la guerre froide. Les organisations internationales et les circulations Est-Ouest (1947-1973) », Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, 2011/1 n° 109, pp. 142-154.

Matasci Damiano, Jerónimo Bandeira Miguel, Dores Gonçalves Hugo (eds.), Education and Development in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Policies, Paradigms, and Entanglements (1890s-1980s), London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Pons Silvio, The Global Revolution : A History of International Communism, 1917-1991, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Rupprecht Tobias, Soviet Internationalism after Stalin. Interaction and Exchange between the USSR and Latin America during the Cold War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Sluga Glenda, Clavin Patricia (eds.), Internationalisms: a Twentieth-century History, Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Steiner-Khamsi Gita (ed.), The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending, New York: Teachers College Press, 2004.

Tournès Ludovic, Scott-Smith Giles (eds.), Global Exchanges. Scholarships and Transnational Circulations in the Modern World, New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2018.


Contact (announcement)

Damiano Matasci
University of Geneva