Decolonizing citizenship: democracy, citizenship and education in the Netherlands, 1960–2020

Wim De Jong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article scrutinizes the discursive practices deployed in debates about Dutch citizenship and education from the 1960s to the present using the concept of ‘decolonizing citizenship’. In the four periods analysed in this contribution, links were present between postcolonialism and how citizens in general were addressed within civic education practices. Firstly, in the 1970s, international solidarity and postcolonialism were linked to the domestic project of empowering citizens to become mature, critical democratic citizens. Secondly, this morphed in the 1980s into a progressive project of creating tolerant, antiracist citizens. A postcolonial perspective on education and a critique of everyday racism among white citizens, however, was stymied by the image of racism as limited to ill-behaved right-wing extremists. From the mid-1980s onwards, antiracism also became an element in the project of a conservative pedagogic state, which used early interventions to reaffirm social norms through the education system. This pedagogic state treated both domestic and immigrant populations as objects of ‘integration’, to combat individualism and reaffirm social cohesion. Thirdly, in the 1990s these evolutions fit a conservative backlash, and its obsession with a civic education that reaffirms notions of national cultural identity. Finally, since the 2010s, a renewed postcolonial, self-proclaimed ‘antiracist’ movement has contested these tendencies by attacking cultural symbols and demanding curriculum changes. This movement, led by people of colour, has begun to reframe the national narrative in favour of a more pluralistic vision of the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1023
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • antiracism
  • Citizenship
  • civic education
  • discrimination
  • pedagogic state
  • postcolonialism
  • racism
  • The Netherlands


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