Machteld Venken, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH)
Abstract: Elite School Principals and Democratic Citizenship in the Belgian-German Borderlands (1919-1939)
Establishing and implementing rules that would teach pupils to become active citizens became a crucial technique for turning those spots on the map of Europe whose sovereignty had shifted after the First World War into lived social spaces. This article analyses how principals of borderland secondary schools negotiated transformation in the Belgian-German borderlands with the help of Arnold Van Gennep’s notion that a shift in social statuses possesses a spatiality and temporality of its own. It asks whether and how school principals were called on to offer training that would make the borderlands more cohesive with the rest of Belgium in terms of the social origins of pupils and the content of study, and examines the extent to which borderland school principals were historical actors with room for their own decision-making on creating and abolishing a liminal phase, thereby leading secondary education through its rites of passage.