Revising the Nation: Citizenship and Belonging in Slovak Schooling, 1910-2010
Deborah Michaels

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Grinnell College

Primary Discipline

Comparative Education
How do school narratives in history and civics textbooks negotiate the competing demands of promoting a sense of national continuity and social stability, on the one hand, and of legitimating often drastic overhauls in state structure and ideology, on the other? Slovakia provides a rich case for exploring this question because of its numerous and diverse political transitions: from imperial rule under the Habsburgs, to bourgeois democracy (1918-1938), nationalist totalitarianism (1939-1945), state socialism (1948-1989), and, most recently, to parliamentary democracy (1989-present). In 2004, Slovakia was among the first post-socialist states to join the European Union (E.U.), which led to additional pressure to align national belonging with the often ill-defined supranational identity of this pan-continental community. In other words, this turbulent history allows not only for the investigation of how different state regimes have influenced identity narratives through schooling, but also how supranational entities such as the Habsburg Empire and the E.U. have used school narration to legitimize their existence. Through an analysis of over 400 state-approved textbooks for history and civics classes published in Slovakia between 1910-2010, this research offers a rare longitudinal, school-based perspective on national identity politics. This work will elucidate why and how state schooling perpetuates exclusive nationalisms even across democratization efforts. Such lessons are highly pertinent today as international organizations continue to focus on schooling as a means of democratization and post-conflict reform, as evidenced by the cases of South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, to name but a few examples. In addition, all regions of Europe have experienced a rise in xenophobia and ethnic violence in the past five years, and the European Union continues to seek educational solutions to increase ethnic and religious tolerance.
About Deborah Michaels
Deborah L. Michaels began her current work as an assistant professor of education at Grinnell College after earning her Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Policy at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship and teaching span international and comparative education, the history of education, and social studies methods. Deborah resided for over a decade in Central and Eastern Europe, primarily in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where she conducts research on national identity politics in schooling and the exclusion of Roma. Her most recent publications investigate how schools in post-socialist Europe teach about the Holocaust, considering the impacts of European Union accession, a legacy of Communist historiography, and proximity to the atrocities of the war. Deborah has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, and a US State Department Speaker Grant to Budapest, Hungary for her lectures on school inclusion for racial and ethnic minorities.

Pin It on Pinterest