Colóquio Internacional

Worlds of Social Policies: Local and global dimensions of change since 1945

6 e 7 de fevereiro de 2020

Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa (CIUL)


Prolonging and reinventing dynamics visible in the interwar period, one of the most salient processes associated with the aftermath of the Second World War was the internationalisation of arguments, debates, norms and policies dealing with social issues. The tentative definition and implementation of standards and policies aiming at human welfare, through the (re)distribution of and access to goods and resources, increasingly included international and transnational actors and expertise. The League of Nations had already promoted social policies in the fields of rural development, public health, labour, the protection of minorities, human trafficking and child welfare, but the range of topics being debated “internationally” would be greatly expanded after 1945. The emergence and consolidation of the United Nations, and its various specialised agencies, contributed to that process, creating platforms for cooperation and exchanges, and for disputes, between international (including imperial and colonial), transnational and national experts. The UN system fostered or expanded existing networks, which promoted the production, accumulation and circulation of different types of expertise. As a result, it standardised and perfected statistical tools while developing major doctrines of social engineering and specialised forms of local intervention in a global context. Thus, rethinking and planning societal change became a “hot topic”, and a subject of heightened competition during the Cold War. Heterogenous visions of “modernity” related to early Cold War dynamics had a direct bearing upon policies introduced by modernising colonial empires and post-colonial projects of state-building and found expression in the implementation of large-scale developmental schemes.

At a regional and global level, processes of cooperation and competition coexisted, in which multilateral agencies and networks played a major role. The importance of comparison was reinforced as a political tool by both colonial and post-colonial regimes. As accessible databases circulated, comparisons between social policies and their outcomes in the field of demography, education, labour, health, agriculture, nutrition, citizenship – and, more broadly, within the novel domain of human rights –, and other issues proliferated globally. Shaped by distinct ideological backgrounds and a great diversity of human and financial resources, the social dimensions of distinct political and economic goals and priorities gained major prominence through national, regional and global forums. Strongly embedded in developmental and modernising projects, these dimensions were to translate into a “geopolitics of welfarism” that would be gradually replaced by a market-based perspective following the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s.

This conference will explore these dynamics in a comparative perspective in different chronologies and geographical settings, focusing on different actors operating in diverse contexts, in order to reassess traditional periodisations (e.g. colonial-postcolonial), geopolitical divisions (e.g. East West, North-South), analytical frameworks (e.g. “local” versus “metropolitan” versus “international”), and to fruitfully explore the connections, and tensions, between international and national social programmes and policies.

Topics of interest may include:

  • The social problem: concepts, arguments, and institutions
  • The (geo)politics of social change
  • Social policies, developmentalism and the welfare state
  • International expert networks and the circulation of social knowledge
  • Searching for the modern worker and consumer: labour, markets taxation
  • Health-related policies: social medicine, nutrition and sanitation
  • Defining citizenship and human rights: cases and accomplishments
  • Educating difference: the role of the state, governmental and non-governmental associations, private enterprises and religious missions
  • Fostering production: land, agriculture and rural development
  • Administering mobility: migration, refugees
  • Sustainable cities: urbanization and housing policies
  • Gendering social policies: family planning, birth control, or labour recruitment

Keynotes: Sandrine Kott (University of Geneva) and Joseph Hodge (West Virginia University)

Conference Language: English

Fee: 75 euros (including 2 lunches and 1 dinner)

Scientific Committee:
Joana Brites (University of Coimbra), Cláudia Castelo (University of Coimbra), Philip Havik (New University of Lisbon), Joseph Hodge (West Virginia University), Steven Jensen (Danish Institute for Human Rights), Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo (University of Coimbra), Alexander Keese (University of Geneva), Sandrine Kott (University of Geneva), Damiano Matasci (University of Geneva), José Pedro Monteiro (University of Coimbra)

Organization: Research project WUD - Worlds of (Under)Development: processes and legacies of the Portuguese colonial empire in a comparative perspective (1945-1975), Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Contact Info:
Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, Centre of Social Studies, University of Coimbra.