06/04/2022 – MGSoG/UNU-MERIT – “Shadowboxing: ‘minority policy’ and marginalization of race in the Dutch metropole”

In the latter decades of the 20th century, the Netherlands was forced to confront evidence of racist violence and discrimination within its European borders. Inspired by UK and US examples, Dutch law professors, advocates, and activists began working together to develop laws and policies against racial discrimination. Unlike in Britain or the US, however, their work did not lead to the widespread or lasting theorization of Dutch law’s role in constructing and perpetuating racial hierarchies; it did not lead to a Dutch Critical Race Theory (CRT). Instead, the resulting law and policy produced limited definitions of racism and ushered in colorblindness and assimilation as government priorities that last to the present day.

This talk will highlight portions of the speaker’s ongoing Ph.D. research into the origins and afterlives of Dutch ‘minority policy’ from 1979-1999, including but not limited to the founding and eventual dismantling of a national institute to combat racism (Landelijke Bureau Racismebestrijding). Using interviews with former participants, and analysis of academic, policy, and grassroots publications of the time, it challenges the prevailing narrative that these efforts represented the pinnacle (and ultimate failure) of benevolent Dutch multiculturalism. Instead, this research places ‘minority policy’ efforts in a broader historical and global context. First, it frames the Dutch state’s response as part of an ongoing process to obscure the connection between current Dutch society and its deeply racialized colonial roots. Second, it links legal efforts to combat racial discrimination in the Netherlands to concurrent developments in European and international human rights and explores how these regimes influenced each other. Finally, it addresses questions and challenges related to expanding and applying CRT outside the settler-colonial context.

About the speaker

Alison L.  Fischer has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (1999) and a doctorate of jurisprudence from Columbia University (2005). She practiced criminal law in the United States and taught at the University of Amsterdam Law Faculty and College of Politics, Psychology, Law, and Economics (PPLE), before beginning her Ph.D. She is currently researching the role of law and legal education in constructing public memories of colonialism and race in the Netherlands.

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