How the Flemings Became White: Race, Language, and Colonialism in the Making of Flanders

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When Belgium was founded in 1830 French was the de facto dominant and prestigious language while Dutch indexed inferiority. This article argues how the marginalization of Flemings, i.e. Belgian speakers of Dutch, can be understood as a form of racialization and how Flemish emancipation was also contingent on the Belgian colonial project and impacted perceived Flemish group interests as ‘white’. As participation in the colonial project entailed the promise of upward social mobility, the marginalized Flemings were disproportionally involved in the colony. In that process Dutch did not achieve the same prestigious status as French, but reached a social position at least superior to racialized colonized subjects. This article argues that the role of race and whiteness grounded in that colonial project is still apparent in contemporary Belgium, where political interests of Flemings are systematically framed in opposition to the interest of racialized citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-273
Number of pages15
JournalDutch Crossing-Journal of Low Countries Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2022


  • Belgium
  • Dutch
  • Flanders
  • French
  • class
  • colonialism
  • language
  • race
  • racialization
  • whiteness


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