Border skirmishes and the question of belonging: An authoethnographic account of everyday exclusion in multicultural society

K. Davis, L.S. Nencel

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Abstract

Transnational migration has transformed most European countries, making the problem of how to 'integrate' an increasingly popular topic in public debates and social policy. It is assumed that as long as the newcomer learns the language, adapts to the local customs and finds work, s/he will be integrated and welcomed with open arms as a full-fledged member of society. Based on an autoethnography of our experiences as US-born, long-term and fully 'integrated' residents of the Netherlands, one of Europe's most multicultural societies, we have explored some of the subtle, well-intentioned practices of distancing and exclusion that are part of the fabric of everyday life. We will show how, contrary to the official discourse of integration, 'Dutch-ness' as a white/ethnic national identity is continuously constructed as a 'we', which excludes all 'others'. And, indeed, we have discovered that, paradoxically, the closer the 'other' comes to being completely assimilated into Dutch society, the more the symbolic borders of national belonging may need to be policed and tightened. © The Author(s) 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-488
JournalEthnicities
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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