Carving out cultural relevance in Amsterdam and the Netherlands

amsterdam roest 24h oost.jpg


The space that people inhabit dictates how they live. How they inhabit that space defines who they are. Each story from thisweek shows how groups in Amsterdam and the Netherlands filled their respective spaces, and how that helped them into who they are today. Some groups were marginal, some were more central. Some were forgotten and lost, and some will be etched into the collective Dutch memory forever. Constituencies like Dibbits’s Dutch Moroccans and Karskens’s carved out their own space out of necessity, while Dutch footballers created their own space by the virtue of their own ability.                   Dibbits focused on Dutch-Moroccans and other immigrants who felt compelled to carve out their own identity, often through donning unique and expensive streetwear. While not given a fair chance to immigrate the same as other immigrant groups, the streetwear culture influenced how other groups in the Netherlands and Amsterdam perceived them. The streetwear culture and the baggy clothes favored by groups like the Dutch Moroccans were strongly linked to the hip-hop industry. (Dibbits, 19) This musical movement, appealing to both black and white Dutchmen and Women is an example of how immigrants found their niche and their own space in Dutch society. While this isn’t specifically about public spaces, the ideological victory of hip-hop’s emergence opened up physical spaces for these artists to perform and gain a following.                    The prostitutes represented by Karsken’s lens did not experience the same emergence, but they too have adapted to their new ways of life, and have inhabited their own space. This is not just a physical space in the city, but is a place in society that they have been allowed to survive in. The prostitutes have adopted another common thread of this week: adaptation. What Professor Troutman pointed out to me in my last post was that adaptation was not unique to the Dutch, but I would argue that the style and excellence displayed by their adaptation is what makes the Dutch special. The prostitutes’ adjusted lives aren’t the Dutch at the height of their adaptive prowess, but it shows that it occurs at all levels of society. It shows that resilience and creativity come together to help create a unique Dutch national identity.This common Dutch quality is blind to profession or circumstance, it simply makes the Dutch who they are. Another integral piece of Dutch identity is football. One level where Dutch excellence is evident is football. The total football made great by the likes of Johann Cruyff is, besides the polder system and manipulation of the environment for societal gain, one of the most monumental achievements of Dutch adaptation. Football is all about space and how it is utilized to take advantage of the other team. The Dutch side literally filled the space of the pitch, but once total football was conceived, they created a space for themselves to be one of the best national teams on the globe. This is evident in recent results and in standout players such as Robin Van Persie.      The difference between the example of football and the example of the Moroccan-Dutch and the Prostitutes is causally related to skill and necessity. Footballers occupied their Dutch cultural role because they were the best at what they did. They occupied that space and grew into it. The immigrants and the prostitutes adapted and created the space for themselves that they did to survive, and remain relevant. These divergent reasons and motivations show that innovation and creativity do not all come from the same place.           These examples also diverge in how they utilize public space, and more specifically, Amsterdam. The prostitutes found working behind Amsterdam Centraal used whatever space they could to work, and then to live. Michelle, who lived in the eastern harbor district, is a prime example of this. (Karskens, 70) She lived wherever she could, and did so without running water and plumbing, comforts taken for granted these days.            In contrast, someone more prominent in Dutch society like Theo Van Gogh took to different public spaces to make his name. His film and radio work, along with the TV appearances he made allowed him to cultivate a public identity. His race and privilege helped enable him, but his rhetoric and controversial nature are what set him apart from the rest of the pack. (Buruma, 98) This allowed him to create his own cultural crevice. Theo’s creation of a non-normative cultural identity shows that the city and broader communities are reached by physical and non-physical means.       It also tells the reader that media such as film is extremely powerful in telling stories and influencing people.            The articles read for this week tell us that cities and societies are not necessarily entities that hold places for people and groups. They provide opportunities for formation of identity and upward mobility, but that progress is dependent on the efforts brought forth by the groups. If the effort and ingenuity are not there, a city is not going to progress for the Dutch-Moroccans, for example. They must actively seek to create their place in society, and if they want to transcend the class they are in, they must work towards that goal. Similarly, someone like Theo Van Gogh faced opposition, but created a unique perspective regardless of its perceived popularity.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 10.48.21 AM.png



Arnold Karskens. From “One Way to Live” pg. 70


Works cited:




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s