Verbinden en verbeelden: De rol van nationale identiteit in het internationaal cultuurbeleid

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)

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The central question of this dissertation is what role national identity has played in the interdepartmental policy field of international cultural policy (ICP) in the Netherlands between 1970 and 2012. In four chapters I analyse the history of ICP and the related political debate, using a theoretical framework consisting of the main concepts of a Discourse Historic Analysis (critique, ideology, and power), and tensions within the discourses on ICP and national identity.

The role of national identity in the first period (1970-1986) is characterized as ‘cultural nationalism’. Culture plays an important role in distinguishing the nation state from the rest of the world, and due to the decreasing autonomy in the field of economics and politics culture is considered (by some) to be the last bearer of the national identity. The debates focus on the question whether or not the government has a role in (actively) protecting that identity.

The publication of the report “Culture without borders” by the Scientific Council for Government Policy marks the beginning of the second period (1987-1996). Gradually the primacy of the policy shifts from foreign to cultural policy, and attempts are made to combine within ICP the growing cultural diversity of the Dutch society with the uniting role of a national identity. Therefore the role of national identity is characterized as ‘multiculturalism’.

Extra funding for international cultural activities in 1997 marks the beginning of the third period (1997-2006), in which the role of national identity is characterized as ‘cultural relativism’. The relationship between culture and the nation becomes more loose, and cultural activities abroad no longer seem to represent the nation’s identity. This approach in ICP contrasts strongly with the growing discontent and heated public and political debate on national identity.

Characteristic for the fourth period (2007-2012) is the return to the primacy of foreign policy and the focus on diplomatic and economic goals. Culture is treated as a tool in the diplomatic and economic foreign relations, and ICP's main goal is to convey a positive image of the Netherlands. The role of national identity in this period is characterized as ‘instrumentalism.’

Two contrasting perspectives seem to dominate the debate: an inward look, with attention to the unifying role of national identity, and an outward look, which focuses on the imagination of the national identity in the relationship with foreign countries. These perspectives are sometimes combined, but at other times, governments have purposely opted for one of these perspectives. Also, changes in policy are the result of a change in the political power relations. Both the shift towards a primacy of cultural policy in the mid-nineties of the 20th century and the shift towards a primacy of economic and diplomatic policy goals were the result of a rather radical change in the composition of parliament. Lastly, the overall quality of the debate has decreased, due to the lack of inspiring policy texts, as well as continuity of participants in the debate.
Original languageDutch
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • de Leeuw, Sonja, Primary supervisor
  • Vuyk, Kees, Co-supervisor
Award date30 Sept 2016
Print ISBNs978-90-393-6647-9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2016


  • National identity
  • international cultural policy
  • discourse

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