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The situation: the Multi-layered identities in The Netherlands

As part of the project preparation each 1000 Layers Project partner contributed with relevant information about the local contexts to provide insights of the types of identity conflicts that might be affecting young people in their territories. To understand local dynamics that will most likely have an impact on project development, we focused on six relevant areas:

  • presence of multi-layered identities

  • inter-group tensions and othering

  • approach to interculturality

  • presence of victimhood narratives

  • inter-group interactions


THE NETHERLANDS


Multi-layered identities


We would like to work with mixed groups from different neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, with a focus on the Nieuw-West neighborhoods. We specifically wish to target Youth with Dutch and Northern African or Turkish backgrounds. The main focus will be on Youth between 16 and 24, still studying or who just started working. Through our growing networks we try to also reach less engaging participants: Youth that are not very active in society.


The Amsterdam Nieuw-West district is home to over 45,000 children and Youth (0-23 years old). Most children and young people are thriving. The neighbourhood, however, is also home to a relatively large number of vulnerable families and Youth at risk. Nearly 60% have a non-Western origin, mainly Moroccan and Turkish.


To the best of our knowledge, no research has been done in the field of Youth participation in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. We do not know how many young people are involved in political and social initiatives. However, Amsterdam Nieuw-West is known for the low level of social participation and engagement. Research does show that the inhabitants of this part of Amsterdam are mostly unappreciative of their neighbours’ social commitments, scoring lower than the average Amsterdamer (5.9 V/S 6.3). The inhabitants of Amsterdam Nieuw-West rate their neighborhood with a 6.7 (on the scale of 10), while the average rating throughout Amsterdam is 7.4.


We would like to add a group here: LGBT Youth that is raised in a liberal Dutch society and has difficulties finding a place in the Nieuw-West of Amsterdam. They have the feeling they cannot be who they are and leave the district to find a better place to live as their true selves.


Inter-group tensions and othering


Though Nieuw-West seems a relatively quiet neighbourhood, just as most neighbourhoods in greater Amsterdam, you cannot say it is a conflict-free area. Research suggests, for example, that the majority of Youth with a migrant background does not trust most governmental institutions or the police. Ethnic profiling is one of the main reasons for this distrust. So, this might be one of the main topics that should be addressed when dealing with inter-group tensions and othering.


Sometimes, this tendency leads to conflictive incidents, but more importantly, it leads to a less cohesive community, as this distrust can lead to turning their back to the society they identify as the ‘Dutch’, which they do not consider as ‘theirs’. Research in 2017 shows that 40 per cent of Dutch-Moroccan or Dutch-Turkish Youth identifies as feeling ‘not Dutch’. The feel they are ‘the other’ part of society, and that they do not belong.



Local government and policymakers are certainly not ignoring these tendencies. However, they often cannot find the right strategies to truly reach and involve Youth. The Dutch tend to preach equality and sometimes even tend to close their eyes for proofs of different behaviour towards different groups. For example: when someone states that he or she did not get a job because of their foreign name, often the first reaction of an ‘original’ Dutch person would be: maybe it was because of the fact that others were better. So, they even ignore the fact that the name (and background) could be the reason. This sometimes makes the Dutch society blind towards practices of othering. However, it is a practice that exists, in one way or another, within Dutch society.


We mentioned ethnic profiling, but there are many other examples of inequality among groups. For example, in academic advice provided for young individuals prior to their higher education: a mere 30% of children with Moroccan, Turkish and Caribbean (Suriname / West Indies) background receive HAVO / VWO advice, compared to a staggering 72% of the native Dutch population of Amsterdam.

Approach to interculturality


In The Netherlands the word ‘diversity’ is used when we talk about interculturality. Diversity is one of the main issues at this moment in Holland’s major cities, particularly in terms of dealing with more equality between the representations of the several cultural backgrounds in all levels of society. Sometimes diversity is also equated with gender equality (mainly in certain workplaces) and the diversification of the staffs of big companies, in which also LGBT+ issues are concerned.


Victimhood narratives


Groups within Dutch society will not directly refer to themselves as ‘victim communities’, primarily due to the fact that the word ‘victim’ has a negative connotation. However, that does not mean that some groups behave like victim communities. This can partly be linked to the policies in the 80s and 90s. In those years, the Dutch governments and municipalities supported many minority groups, as a strategy to promote integration. Although this lead to greater independence of these groups, there is still a tendency of: I belong to a minority, so I am a victim, so I need support. This not only counts for minority groups with different cultural backgrounds, but also for the LGBT+ community, women’s groups and other groups with a specific characteristic. Despite the fact that these groups do face difficulties and many times require additional support, the victimhood narrative tends to play against them in their empowerment.


Inter-group interactions


There are inter-group interactions as people always have to deal with each other. They meet at schools, in shops and on the street. However, contact often doesn’t transcend the superficial.

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