About our project

Our comparative ethnographic project looks at postcolonial apology as a political and moral act, which attempts to voice, redefine and redress previously silenced pasts. With postcolonial apology, we refer to ritual, public acts of reconciliation (with possible reimbursements) that address colonial atrocities. Political apologies, of which postcolonial apology is a particular example, are grounded on an anticipative premise that acknowledging injustices and reckoning with problematic pasts will result in transforming dominant historical narratives and bringing about a reconfigured future.

The three case studies in the project focus on childcare regimes, which removed or migrated children from their homes in order to ensure them what was conceived as “a better future”. The PI of the project, Katja Uusihakala, studies the state apology to British child migrants given in 2010 and its follow-up in the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in the UK, which has included child migration programs as one of its key cases. Her focus is particularly on the reconciliation process related to white child migrants sent to colonial Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The second case, undertaken by PhD candidate Hanna Rask, concentrates on history of state interventions targeted at Indigenous families in Canada, from Indian Residential Schools to ongoing over-representation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. She examines how legacies of the past child welfare and educational policies are addressed in today’s child welfare system in Ontario, Canada. The third member of our research team is Saana Hansen, whose post-doctoral research focuses on Danish Government’s interventions on the family politics of indigenous people in Greenland. It investigates especially the truth and reconciliation process related to the displacement of Inuit children from their families and their emplacement into Danish foster families and child-care institutions during 1950s-1970s.

Respectively, the childcare policies in each of the three cases went hand in hand with political pursuits to strengthen the colonial social order, national strategies of cultural assimilation, and the ideology of imperial whitening. Through ethnographic, multi-sited fieldwork, our project explores the effectiveness of postcolonial apologies in terms of moral, political, relational and temporal transformations they purport to bring about. Furthermore, our comparative approach is integral to making sense of “imperial durabilities” (as Ann Laura Stoler 2016 phrases it) – of how the Empire lingers in the present. Importantly, we examine how the receivers of apology – the formerly removed and relocated children – critically reflect upon the legacies of colonial childcare policies and the significance of the processes of reconciliation in their lives.


childcare regimes, child migration/displacement, postcolonial apology, colonial legacies, colonial archive, political emotions, truth and reconciliation, silencing of the past, intergenerational memory and responsibility, welfare politics, children’s best interests, kinship and state, kinning and de-kinning


The project is funded by Koneen Säätiö (Kone Foundation), Finland.