We are delighted to announce that the international symposium Decolonising Empires 1930s-1970s: (Trans)National Actors and Social Reform in (Post) Colonial Countries will take place on 7-8 September 2023 in Utrecht.

“This international symposium discusses how regional, national, and transnational social movements helped or obstructed social reform during the transition from colonially governed to independent countries. The conference aims to reframe this process by placing at the centre of the analysis the action of transnational social movements, with a focus on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), transnational labour movements, and voluntary associations.

Social welfare has been commonly considered to be a distinctive trait of European history and identity. Academic research traditionally studied models, policies, practices, ideas based on European experiences. Only recently, political sciences and historiography began to explore the development of social policy in colonial and postcolonial areas. Starting from the recent studies on the global social policy, this interdisciplinary conference aims to scrutinise the role of the transnational actors that interconnected Europe and the (post)colonial spaces in the years 1930s–1970s.”

The event is organised by Marco van Leeuwen (m.h.d.vanleeuwen@uu.nl) & Michele Mioni (michele.mioni@uni-bremen.de)  in the framework of the IOS In/Equality Platform and the Cost Action “Who Cares in Europe?”. 


Thursday 7 September

10:45 – 11:00 | Welcome and Introduction

11:00 – 11:45 | Panel D1

  • Inmaculada Blasco, Natalia Núñez Bargueño, “We are 36 million women from five continents”: WUCWO”s transnational catholicism and social welfare beyond Europe and the decolonising world (1930s-1970s)

11:45 – 12:45 Lunch

12:45 – 14:15 | Panel A: Methodological Approaches: Qualitative and Quantitative

  • Michele Mioni, Connecting Global and Regional Scales of Action: Geographic, Diachronic, Conceptual Issues of “Decolonisation”, “Social Policy”, and “Non-State Transnational Actors”
  • Agata Troost and Marco H.D, van Leeuwen, The role of INGOs in the process of decolonisation

14:15 – 16:00 | Panel B: Trade Unions in Africa

  • Geert van Goethem, A question of agency? The siren song of West and East and Aden’s struggle for independence, 1955-1967
  •  Lucky Igohosa Ugbudian, The Role of Trade Unions and Social Movements in Decolonial Process in Nigeria

16:00 – 16:45 Panel C: Cooperation between Public and Transnational Players

  • Carlos Martins, Unlikely Social Actors at the End of Empire: Colonial troops as vehicles of (very) late social welfare

16:45 – 17:45 | General discussion and Refreshments

17:45 Drinks

Friday 8 September

9:30 – 10:30 | Panel D2 Transnational Catholic Associations

  • Marialuisa Lucia Sergio, The Catholic welfare action in the French overseas territories between decolonisation and the cold war

10:30 – 12:00| Panel E: INGOs and transnational humanitarianism

  • Youngeun Koo, The Making of Modern Child Welfare: Transnational Social Work and Humanitarian Liberalism in Postcolonial South Korea
  • Norbert Götz, The 1969 Ahiara Declaration: How Solidarity Groups and Humanitarian Agencies Dealt with a Welfare Vision from Biafra

12:00 – 13:15 | General Discussion

***For more information, please see this page.***