“Whether and how?” History education about recent and ongoing conflict: a review of research

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This article reviews research on history education that addresses recent or ongoing conflict since 1990. History education is recognised as a key site for constructing identity, transmitting collective memory, and shaping “imagined communities,” which makes its revision or reform a complex and important part of education in emergencies work. The article reviews 42 empirical studies from 11 countries, exploring whether recent conflict forms part of national curricula and, where it does, how this teaching is approached. Young people learn about recent conflict in all of the cases reviewed; in the majority, curriculum is one source for this learning, but in some cases the history of recent conflict is taught without curricular guidance or not at all. Where recent conflict is taught, the review finds a reliance on a traditional, collective memory approach to disseminating national narratives, although often in social studies rather than history classrooms. In many cases, these narratives are top-down and ethno-nationalist and rely on devices like mythical past unity and the exceptionalism of conflict. The review concludes by suggesting that actors undertaking a revision or reform of history curriculum attend to recent conflict as an “active past” and offers some promising ideas for approaching such a past in history curricula.

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