Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

About Them, but without Them: Race and Ethnic Relations Studies in Dutch Universities

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

About Them, but without Them: Race and Ethnic Relations Studies in Dutch Universities

Article excerpt


Universities are organized to teach, research and produce knowledge. But knowledge is not produced in isolation, and knowledge about race and ethnic relations is no exception. Historically, social forces and events in Europe have given rise to policies to combat racism and racial discrimination. Among other things, racist events in Britain between 1958 and 1963 gave the United Kingdom the oldest and the most extensive anti-racism and anti-discrimination regulation in Europe (Miles and Phizacklea 1984; Small and Solomos 2006). The British Race Relations Act of 1965 was adopted before the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 21 December 1965 (UN, document 27, 1965; see also UN Resolution 1904, XVIII). Antiracism and anti-discrimination regulations entered continental Europe via the United Nations in the 1970s. The British Race Relations Act 1965 went almost unnoticed in continental Europe. In the formulation of Stuart Hall, "Western Europe did not have, until recently, any ethnicity at all. Or didn't recognize it had any" (Hall 2004:256).

In continental Europe, white middle class social upsurge in the form of university student revolts in May 1968 in Paris gained significant attention. The Paris student revolts had spinoffs in Amsterdam and elsewhere, which in turn facilitated the democratisation of the universities, gender 'equality' and democratisation of life-style. The counterpart of these upsurges in relation to race and ethnic relations in the Netherlands was the uprising of the Moluccans in 1976. Formal and systematic regulation of race and ethnic relations was in response to the Moluccan uprising and took the form of the establishment of the department of minorities affairs within the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs, which in turn culminated in the publication of the ethnic minorities' policy document or report (Minderhedenbeleid) of 1983; this in turn laid the foundations of formal ethnic studies within the universities.

In this paper I examine the nature and articulation of some of these processes in the Netherlands and document the small but rising body of institutional and ideological opposition to them. In this way I reveal the various knowledge production processes, the limitations of each, and the ways in which challenges are being mounted. I also reveal the ways in which international exchange, especially across programs with African Diasporic studies and other programs of critical analysis contribute to the developing patterns in Europe in general and the Netherlands in particular.


Fortress Europe overshadows ethnic studies in the European Union. The proliferation of race, ethnic and immigrant studies and research in the Netherlands took off after the establishment of the department of minorities' affairs within the Ministry of Home Affairs in the late 1970s. The active role of the government in institutionalizing research to support the development of Minorities' Policy is expressed in the notion of Minorities' Research (Minderhedenonderzoek). Virtually all research on ethnic minorities is funded directly by government departments or, indirectly, via (state-funded) University related institutes and professional NGOs. It is safe to assume that the majority of Dutch universities with major social science faculties conduct some studies on immigrants or ethnic minorities groups (Essed and Nimako, 2006). However the core of Dutch migration and ethnic studies are located in three centres or institutes within three universities, namely, the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ERCOMER) at Utrecht University, and the Institute for Sociological and Economic Research (ISEO) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

The Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES) is the precursor of the Centre for Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES). …

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