‘Dutchness’, Emotions and the Senses

In January 2013 the Meertens Institute will start a new project, called The “Dutchness” of the Dutch. Constructions of the ‘national’ in a neo-liberal world.

The project will investigate the rediscovery of ‘Dutchness’ – all the recent constructions (political, intellectual, artistic or commercial) in which what is felt as ‘typically’ or ‘authentically’ Dutch is again promoted, celebrated or commercially exploited.

Partly related to the initiatives of several Dutch governments to strengthen the nation after ‘nine eleven’ and the political murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, many new constructions of ‘Dutchness’ have emerged in political, intellectual, artistic and commercial circles, including those of the fashion industry and the creative industry. Interestingly, similar developments have been observed in, for instance, Germany, England, Denmark, and a couple of other European countries.

In this interdisciplinary and comparative project questions will be asked about how these recent constructions actually emerged, about the construction’s grammars of identity/alterity (Bauman), their problematic aspects of autochtony and nativism (Geschiere, Duyvendak), and how the constructions are actually related to more general processes of globalization, mediatization and the present emotion industry.

Finally, questions will be asked about the emotional and sensory hold of the constructions: how are they appropriated, often literally incorporated? Here, notions of habitus may be helpful but also the notions of ‘style’ and ‘aesthetics’ as recently put forward in religious studies (Meyer).

Most of the project will be based on fieldwork, archival research and interviews/questionaires. Part of the project will also consist of ‘sentiment mining’ in the records of Dutch parliament over the last ten years. The goal is through pattern recognition to semi-automatically create wordnets for the parliament’s vocabulary expressing emotions related to ‘Dutchness’.

For further information, please contact Herman Roodenburg (herman[dot]roodenburg[at]meertens.knaw.nl).


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