Mediterranean Perspectives in School History Teaching – Interview with Romain Faure
This article is part of the TRAFO series “Emerging Topics. Insights from ‘Behind the Scenes’”. Today, we put the spotlight on the workshop “Mediterranean Perspectives in School History Teaching”. It will take place on June 26 – 27, 2017 at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin and is convened by Romain Faure (FU Berlin) and Leyla Dakhli (Centre Marc Bloch).
Romain Faure is currently program manager at Freie Universität Berlin. He holds a PhD from the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany and the Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France. In his dissertation entitled Netzwerke der Kulturdiplomatie. Die internationale Schulbuchrevision 1945-1989, he mapped history textbook revision activities during the Cold War, focusing on their various actors and unfolding their strong interconnectedness.
Please find the program of the workshop here.
What is the aim of your workshop “Mediterranean Perspectives in School History Teaching”?
We hope this workshop will help launching a dialogue between historians and history teachers from different Mediterranean countries, with a view to discuss ways of transforming history teaching by overcoming Eurocentrism, nationalism or Arabo-Islamo-centrism and by introducing a transregional account of the Mediterranean. For example, we believe that more space should be granted to the histories of the Arab world, Turkey or Southern Europe in history teaching in Germany or France since historical developments in these regions are fundamental to understand our contemporary environment. During the workshop, we will more specifically focus on the teaching of 19th and 20th century history because the relations between the Northern and the Southern shores of the Mediterranean have strongly intensified in this period and thus given shape to today’s Mediterranean world.
For your workshop you bring together historians and history teachers from different countries to discuss the possibilities of introducing the entangled history of the Mediterranean region into school curricula. Why do you consider this change in history teaching to be important and why do you think a (trans-)regional perspective in school books is necessary?
History teaching is strongly related to the questions of how a society defines itself and how it constructs otherness. To a certain extent, every generation is confronted with the question of what historical knowledge it considers important to understand its contemporary environment. On the one hand more than 50 years after decolonization, we believe that the time is ripe to break with Eurocentrism in history teaching. On the other hand, we think that the events of the last 5 to 10 years (to name only a few: the Arab Spring, the Syrian war, migration across the Mediterranean, Islamist attacks in Europe) have increased the demand for historical knowledge that renders current developments in the Arab world and the Mediterranean intelligible. Yet, this knowledge is not made available by school history teaching. Take, for example, France or Germany: Do we think that we provide students with appropriate intellectual tools to understand the world they live in when the only things they hear about the other side of the Mediterranean is that the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe in 1914, Algeria was decolonized violently and an Egyptian Islamist crashed a plane on the World Trade Center? Certainly not. The same holds true for history teaching in countries from the Southern shore of the Mediterranean, which is often strongly nationalist or Arabo-Islamo-centric. Paradoxically, historical research on the modern and contemporary history of the Mediterranean is vivid and
increasingly takes into account the crucial importance of transregional connections. What we need is a translation of historical scholarship into teaching and, beyond this, a new approach to the contemporary canon of history teaching. To avoid giving way to new Eurocentric, Arabo-Islamo-centric or nationalist biases, we need to gather the expertise and perspectives from historians and history teachers from all around the Mediterranean. All the more so as Mediterranean countries from the North and the South are confronted with a range of similar and often interrelated problems (xenophobia, ignorance of the Other, dealing with social diversity, etc.). Therefore, we invited for example a historian working on the history and historiography of Tunisia as well as historians involved in the project of a German-Polish joint textbook, or, again, a Macedonian teacher who has co-edited a book on the teaching the history of socialist Yugoslavia. By bringing together experts in these different fields we hope to foster a mutual learning and to create a core group for further collaboration in the field of history teaching in and about the countries around the Mediterranean.
How would you like to influence the debate in the future, and do you have plans to further continue the debate and exchange between specialists of the Mediterranean region and school books ?
We hope that our workshop will lay the ground for a bigger project, of which the final output still needs to be discussed (a textbook, didactic materials for teachers, a website…?). In the long run, we would like to create a Mediterranean forum on history teaching. It is admittedly an ambitious endeavour but also – at least this is our hope – a meaningful one. Generally, we hope that the project might set off a larger debate on the canon of school history teaching today. To give an example: A movement as crucial as the Nahda in the 19th century does not play any role in the secondary curricula of most European countries, despite its relevance for understanding current political conflicts in the Arab world. Yet, one could argue that the Nahda movement is just as important for history teaching as for example the Industrial Revolution. Triggering a debate on this kind of issues would be an important achievement of our project.
Further contributions to the TRAFO series “Emerging Topics”:
- Imaging a “Middle East” – Interview with Saima Akhtar, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 06.06.2017
- Postcolonial Legacies, Scholarly Mobility and Research Capacity Building – Interview with Daniele Cantini, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 29.05.2017
- Reading the “1979 Moment” in the Middle East – Interview with Amir Moosavi, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 16.05.2017
- Konfiguration des Säkularen. Einblicke in die kritische Säkularismusforschung – Interview with Schirin Amir-Moazami, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 09.05.2017.
- Transregionale Verflechtungen: Räumliche Zusammenhänge jenseits etablierter Metageographien – Interview with Steffen Wippel, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 27.04.2017
- Heritage, Decolonisation and the Field – Interview with William Carruthers, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 10.04.2017.
- What Makes a Man? Sexuality and Representation in Europe-Middle East Encounters – Interview with Tarek El-Ariss, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 07.04.2017.
- Making and Changing Spaces of Action under the Global Condition – Interview with Martina Keilbach, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 31.03.2017.
- Practices and Processes of Space-making under the Global Condition – Interview with Steffi Marung, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 16.02.2017.
- Stepping Back in Time. Living History and Other Performative Approaches to History in Central and South-Eastern Europe, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 17.02.2017, guest contribution by Sabine Stach (German Historical Institute Warschau).
Citation: Mediterranean Perspectives in School History Teaching – Interview with Romain Faure, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 20.06.2017, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/7146.