The Council is fully persuaded of the importance of prompt action in order to prevent the growth of a race that would rapidly increase in numbers, attain a maturity without education or religion, and become a menace to the morals and health of the community. (State's Children Council, Australia, 1911, cited in Smallwood, 2015: 68)
Generally speaking, a state is considered the guarantor of protection and safety for the people living within its borders or subjected to its sovereignty. Yet history is full of examples in which state authorities not only neglect their responsibility toward at-risk people, but also actively contribute to threatening and endangering the lives of these individuals. This can be observed especially within state policies towards people considered ‘foreign’, or whose benefit towards society is questioned. In this chapter, some historical examples will be reviewed in which children have been affected by such marginalizing state policies, the consequences of which can still be felt today.
Since the emergence of nation states in the 18th century, children have been attributed a special significance for the future of societies. States recognize their need for protection, and measures are taken to provide for their education and learning. However, the notion that nation state formation is often accompanied by processes of marginalization, on the one hand, and violent assimilation practices, on the other, is often overlooked (Anderson, 2006; Douglas, 2002). This occurs especially in instances where ‘national identity’ is ambiguous (Appadurai, 2006). In such cases, children may experience systematic persecution, abuse and denial of citizenship. Here, the question emerges whether the state ‘merely’ neglects its obligation to protect children, or actively contributes to their abuse and endangerment. There is a fine line between the two. The cases of state violence discussed here can be understood as a form of colonization of children (Ashcroft, 2001; Cannella and Viruru, 2004; Liebel, 2017). They are not limited to the ideological upbringing of children (assimilation), but rather extend to forms of disciplining, exclusion, oppression and even genocide, or ‘ideocide’.
Systematic violence against children was undertaken in two particular ways in the British Empire and in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.