Participatory Archives of Schooling

What does it means to conduct ‘reparative’ histories of schooling?

A growing body of work by historians calls for methodologies which trace the injustices and dispossessions of the past, their afterlives and new formations in the present, and the possibilities for redress, repair and reparation. In the context of the UK’s legacies of slavery and colonial violence, Catherine Hall notes there remains much reparatory work to be done and that ‘history writing can be one way in’ (Hall, 2018).

In the Repair-Ed project we set out to explore the potential of reparative histories through our research. As Cathy Bergin and Anita Rupprecht reflect, reparative histories involve a ‘commitment to excavating interconnected histories which can be identified in the very architecture and streets of the towns in which we live [as] an insistence on the multi-racial inherited past which we inhabit and the multi-racial traditions of resistance upon which we must build’ (Bergin & Rupprecht, 2018).

Through participatory oral history methodologies, we explore memories of childhood experiences of primary schooling in Bristol, seeking to construct ‘interconnected’ accounts of racial and class injustice in education, their intergenerational echoes, and the possibilities for reparative redress.

In our research we build on Peter Manning, Julia Paulson and Duong Keo’s work (2024) on ‘reparative remembering’, and on Michael Rothberg’s (2019) ‘multidirectional memory’. Both these ideas foreground the importance of collective learning through multiples narratives and perspectives of the past (Manning et al., 2024; Rothberg 2019). We also take inspiration from Kristina R. Llewellyn and Nicholas Ng-A-Fook’s work on oral histories as being central to the development of historical consciousness; to open spaces for shared narratives of contested pasts (Llewellyn & Ng-A-Fook 2020).

Schooling has been implicated in manifold injustices in children’s lives. Through developing reparative histories of schooling, we seek to create a political resource for collectively working through these histories and for collectively imagining ‘reparative futures’ of education for tomorrow’s children.

We’ll be posting updates here about our efforts to create participatory ‘archives’ of schooling. Do be in touch if you have feedback or ideas as we develop our approaches to reparative histories of schooling.