Changing identities and the shift to assimilationism in the Netherlands

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This project explored why seemingly progressive European societies have begun shifting away from so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant‘ attitudes towards immigrants, in favour of demanding conformity, compulsion and seemingly undemocratic sanctions. It focused in particular on circumstances in the Netherlands, which despite having a reputation for its high levels of ‘tolerance’, has recently witnessed a backlash in policy and public discourse, with migrants being blamed for not meeting their responsibility to integrate and for practicing ‘backward religions’.

Through analysis of statistical data and secondary research, this project looked to understand why and how such a country, which has institutionalised the acceptance of difference, can shift to what is perceived as a coercive and assimilationist policy and public discourse. It also sought to explore the factors that led to migrants being blamed for their lack of responsibility in the integration process and for practicing ‘backward religions’. In doing so, it looked to examine key conceptual issues currently used in Europe in immigrant incorporation discourse; to call into question conceptual and policy issues about immigrant inclusion; and to lay the foundations for further work analysing directly social cohesion, diversity, identity, multiculturalism as universal themes within Europe.

Principal Investigator

Ellie Vasta


Economic and Social Research Council (COMPAS core funding)