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Between a contaminated past and a compromised future: the case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984)

Lieselot De Wilde (UGent) and Bruno Vanobbergen (UGent)
(2015) PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA. 51(5). p.631-643
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Abstract
In the past decades, a body of international research concerning residential institutions for children emerged. This article focuses on the history of the Ghent orphanages (1945–1984). First, the population of the more than 1200 children and young people resident in the orphanages between 1945 and 1984 is analysed. This analysis illustrates a shift from a legal approach to a normative interpretation of the orphaned child. It becomes clear that the Ghent orphanages functioned, in the second half of the twentieth century, as a system of care for what we today would call youth “at risk” or “pre-delinquent” children and not “orphaned children”. According to this analysis, the focus shifts to the role and the functions of these institutions within the broader community of the city of Ghent. Although the population of the orphanages changed, the local authorities continued to use the name “orphanage”. In that vein, it is argued that concepts such as “orphans” and “orphanages” did not only refer to the classification of certain groups of children, but were also useful tools to protect the social order. An analysis of 45 interviews with both former orphans and educators provides an in-depth insight into the complex relationship between the educators and the orphaned children. In this way, the orphanage was studied not only “from the outside” but also from “the inside”, and by capturing the childhood narratives of former orphaned children it is possible to complement the “official story” with their interpretation of the past.
Keywords
RISK, CHILD, poverty, childhood, children at risk, oral history, orphans

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MLA
De Wilde, Lieselot, and Bruno Vanobbergen. “Between a Contaminated Past and a Compromised Future: The Case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984).” PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA 51.5 (2015): 631–643. Print.
APA
De Wilde, L., & Vanobbergen, B. (2015). Between a contaminated past and a compromised future: the case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984). PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA, 51(5), 631–643.
Chicago author-date
De Wilde, Lieselot, and Bruno Vanobbergen. 2015. “Between a Contaminated Past and a Compromised Future: The Case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984).” Paedagogica Historica 51 (5): 631–643.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
De Wilde, Lieselot, and Bruno Vanobbergen. 2015. “Between a Contaminated Past and a Compromised Future: The Case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984).” Paedagogica Historica 51 (5): 631–643.
Vancouver
1.
De Wilde L, Vanobbergen B. Between a contaminated past and a compromised future: the case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984). PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA. 2015;51(5):631–43.
IEEE
[1]
L. De Wilde and B. Vanobbergen, “Between a contaminated past and a compromised future: the case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984),” PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA, vol. 51, no. 5, pp. 631–643, 2015.
@article{6929836,
  abstract     = {In the past decades, a body of international research concerning residential institutions for children emerged. This article focuses on the history of the Ghent orphanages (1945–1984). First, the population of the more than 1200 children and young people resident in the orphanages between 1945 and 1984 is analysed. This analysis illustrates a shift from a legal approach to a normative interpretation of the orphaned child. It becomes clear that the Ghent orphanages functioned, in the second half of the twentieth century, as a system of care for what we today would call youth “at risk” or “pre-delinquent” children and not “orphaned children”. According to this analysis, the focus shifts to the role and the functions of these institutions within the broader community of the city of Ghent. Although the population of the orphanages changed, the local authorities continued to use the name “orphanage”. In that vein, it is argued that concepts such as “orphans” and “orphanages” did not only refer to the classification of certain groups of children, but were also useful tools to protect the social order. An analysis of 45 interviews with both former orphans and educators provides an in-depth insight into the complex relationship between the educators and the orphaned children. In this way, the orphanage was studied not only “from the outside” but also from “the inside”, and by capturing the childhood narratives of former orphaned children it is possible to complement the “official story” with their interpretation of the past.},
  author       = {De Wilde, Lieselot and Vanobbergen, Bruno},
  issn         = {0030-9230},
  journal      = {PAEDAGOGICA HISTORICA},
  keywords     = {RISK,CHILD,poverty,childhood,children at risk,oral history,orphans},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {5},
  pages        = {631--643},
  title        = {Between a contaminated past and a compromised future: the case of the Ghent Orphanages (1945–1984)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00309230.2015.1021360},
  volume       = {51},
  year         = {2015},
}

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