Restoring Order, Inducing Change: Imagining a “New (Wo)man” in the Belgian Colonial Empire in the 1950s*
The post-WWII momentum was characterized by the emergence of specific languages and
repertoires of societal intervention in colonial contexts. Given the new (geo)political circumstances, renewed imperial political and moral economies were envisaged by European colonial authorities, albeit in dissimilar ways. The establishment of a developmentalist and welfarist rhetoric and the formulation of related policies, which entailed political, economic, and sociocultural calculations and objectives, was one manifestation of these dynamics. The efforts of social engineering, at individual and collective levels, in which the imagination of ‘new (wo) man’ and communities was fundamental, were carried by multiple institutions and networks, with diverse motivations, resources and agendas, operating on many levels. In the Belgium colonial empire, the savoir‑développer and the savoir-transformer were claimed by many, in order to advocate or justify experiments in “comprehensive social development”, mainly designed to induce change with a view to restore order. This paper addresses these issues and explores this case, emphasizing the significant role played by international, interimperial organizations.