Accepted Paper:

From being "erased from history" to victims of state policy: public apology to British child migrants  


Katja Uusihakala (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on how both the exclusion of British child migration from the standard narrative of British postwar history, as well as its recent inclusion through a state issued public apology, affect and frame the stories that former child migrants tell about themselves and their past.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how former British child migrants' experiences of the past are formed and recounted in relation to official or institutional historical narratives - and their lack of. The case analyzed concerns a state administered scheme which aimed at migrating and permanently relocating selected British children (aged 5-13) to colonial Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during 1946-62. Postwar child migration can, by and large, be considered a silenced chapter in British history; the phenomenon did not enter public discourse until the early 1990s. This period, in the broader frame of memory work, may be characterized by "the politics of regret" (Olick 2007), which has aimed at recognizing those previously silenced and at including their voices and memories to new versions of national histories. Consequently, a public apology to British child migrants was made in 2010; their neglect was replaced by their political categorization as recipients of apology and as victims of state policy. This paper suggests that both prior political oblivion - the omitting of British child migration from the standard narrative of British postwar history - as well as the recent recognition of the child migrants through state issued public apology, frame the stories that the former migrants tell about themselves. These exclusions and inclusions further condition the ways in which the child migrants' story may be recognized and included in the national political narrative.

Panel RM-SPK08
Talking like a state: political narrative in everyday life