Dr. Chiara Candaele introduces herself

She speaks about her PhD thesis as well about the role the RSPH has had in her career.

On 13 September 2023, I defended my PhD dissertation entitled Exceptional Childhood. Legitimising Transnational Adoption in Postcolonial Belgium at the University of Antwerp.

My thesis investigates the development of Belgian transnational adoption networks and practices during the second half of the previous century, which currently constitutes the topic of a heated societal debate. In particular, my research aims to promote a better understanding of the different power dynamics that shape child welfare decisions and transnational child relocations.

The program offered by the Research School Political History provided me with many excellent opportunities to gain feedback on my analysis and to embed my empirical findings within a broader, political-historical framework.

During the second year of my PhD, I was one of the candidates presenting their research as part of the RSPH Seminar ‘The Politics of Political History’, which took place on 7-8 June 2018 in Ravenstein at the Soeterbeeck conference venue of the Radboud University Nijmegen. During my presentation, I discussed the political underpinnings of transnational adoption and argued in favour of a political approach to the history of childhood. Prof. Geertje Mak, the discussant of my paper, urged me to think more deeply about imperial and colonial continuities regarding interventions in children’s lives. Later that year, prof. Mak invited me to join the NWO-Internationalisation programme ‘Children as Objects and Actors of Colonial Change’, which brought together several European researchers studying the position of children in colonial civilising projects.

Starting this year, I will further explore these themes and questions as part of my postdoctoral research at the KNAW Huygens Institute in Amsterdam, where I will study the role of Protestant missionaries in institutional youthcare in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia.