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ELENI CHRISTODOULOU & GIUDITTA FONTANA

Why do history textbook revisions fail? Securitising history education in Cyprus and Lebanon

History education has been at the core of sensitive, intensive and highly political debates in countries currently or historically affected by conflict. To an extent these debates are to be expected as they revolve around the negotiation, recognition or reformulation of identities, based on contested historical narratives, as well as images of the Self and the Other, that are part and parcel of the conflict itself. History textbooks contain information a society sees as desirable and acceptable to transmit to its youth to prepare them to become devoted and patriotic citizens. As they convey specific values, they have the potential to reinforce or exacerbate conflict dynamics. Several analyses of history textbooks have exposed their problematic content and have made normative calls for revisions, yet rarely do studies offer an in-depth analysis of the actual discourses about these textbooks that can help us gain a deeper understanding of when and why these revisions fail to materialise. This paper fills this gap through an interdisciplinary and comparative study of two (post)conflict, neighbouring and yet rarely compared countries: Cyprus and Lebanon. By building on securitisation theory of the Copenhagen School (International Relations), we argue that there is a strong interplay between history education and security which has thus far been neglected by scholars of both education and peace and conflict studies. Through an analysis of policy documents and newspapers and rich interview data that invoke the need to defend ontological and physical security, we demonstrate how various actors build on educational anxieties over identity, truth and the possibility of further conflict to successfully resist educational change.