On Friday several members of the Hiraeth team drove to the beautiful little town of Wageningen about an hour and a half southwest of Amsterdam, to participate in a conference on The Value of Life, organised by Wageningen University.
Meghann Ormond, Assistant Professor of Cultural Geography at Wageningen and co-organiser of the conference, invited Hiraeth to take part in a two part session entitled ‘Whose Heritages Matter? Re-imagining “Dutchness” through migration in and beyond the Netherlands’.
The session focused on the Canon of Dutch History, a 2005 initiative that chose fifty topics in Dutch history as a “canon” that every primary school child should learn as a matter of cultural heritage. The various participants examined the canon, its underpinnings, assumptions, and results, in the context of migrants and their unique perspectives and contributions to Dutch society.
Monca Perez Vega, the originator of the Hiraeth idea and current member of the editorial board, gave the Hiraeth presentation.
Here’s the closest we can bring you to being at the conference and experiencing Monica’s presentation. Enjoy! (Mobile users, you may want to turn your phone sideways for best viewing experience.)
And it suddenly occurred to me that no- they probably didn’t. Because I am a face and those are just words.
For some reason the two things were not being connected.
Without the faces, words like “refugee” and “immigrant” felt threatening and unfamiliar.
As an “expat” I acknowledge that I also play a role in reshaping this country, just as this country has reshaped me.
So- What does that mean? How does that feel?
My daughter was born in Amsterdam. However, she went to an international school and barely spoke Dutch- much like her parents… We moved to London just shy of her ninth birthday. And I once overheard a parent ask her- “where are you from?” To which she confidently replied, “I’m half Mexican, half American, and fully Dutch.”
This surprised me. While I lived with one foot out the door, my daughter was literally born and raised in this country. So of course she would say she’s fully Dutch. But it did make me wonder: What exactly qualifies a person to claim Dutch identity?
My daughter doesn’t have a Dutch passport, or speak Dutch. Doesn’t eat herring or bitterballen or sing to her shoe in December. And yet she is “fully Dutch”.
She doesn’t have a barometer of Dutchness; she just knows Dutch life the way she lived it.
We are grateful to Meghann and Wageningen University for letting us be a part of what ended up being a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion about the meaning of culture and identity, and how the stories we choose to tell and the ways we tell them influence the society we create. We look forward to further creative collaboration on this topic!