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Kosmopolis Institute Publications Day 9: In Search of the Dutch Identity

Day 9: In Search of the Dutch Identity

While sitting in the institute after dinner, I joined an ongoing discussion about Dutch identity. What is the Dutch identity? Vinita and Evarist want to know. None of the Dutch could really give an answer as Holland is not about windmills and tulips, so they started to ask more questions. I started to feel quite ignorant, since I wasn’t able to give them answers. ‘When and how did we become independent from Spain? What is in our constitution? Why don’t we sing our anthem at primary and secondary schools?’ I don’t know and honestly I don’t care. I think this is exactly why it’s so hard to give an explanation about the Dutch identity; we simply don’t care. As inspired as I am by the history of South Africa; my own(?) country doesn’t seem very interesting to me. I could just as well be born in Germany…

I have roots somewhere, right? Vinita and Evarist are very surprised when Frank and I say that we don’t think we really belong somewhere. Yes I was born in a specific area and yes I have family, but I don’t feel very connected to them. And doesn’t there need to be a connection in order to speak of identity? Am I a pluralist then? I have lived in different countries and I liked living there; but the strange thing is that when living in Asia, I felt like a European. When I was living in Belgium I felt Dutch; in school I was even known as the Dutch girl. So how come that I felt Dutch, but that at the same time I don’t really feel a connection with the country? There must be something Dutch about me. Is it that I’m very open minded? Postmodern? Individualistic? Could it be that Holland is just a bunch of individualistic people who happen to live in the same country? Can we speak about a Dutch identity if this is the case?

Maybe we don’t have such strong feelings as the Indians, Indonesians, Ugandans and South Africans have for their country because we haven’t been oppressed by colonizers the last few centuries. Colonialism seems to awaken patriotic voices in other participants of this Winter School. They appreciate their culture so much more than the Dutch and in some way I envy them. So did we give Indonesia and South Africa part of their identity now and we’re still in search of our own?

So what is it that makes me feel Dutch in a way? And is there something like a Dutch identity? I’m puzzled by these questions. Hopefully I will get a step closer to the answer during this Winter School and I would kindly ask the other participants to push my limits when it comes to these questions. And if in the end there still aren’t any answers, Phumzileh is willing to adopt me into her South African family.