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Dutch Debates – Topical Questions in Dutch Society, Culture I


Admission requirements

An open mind and the willingness to get to know the Netherlands and other cultures, are prerequisites for this course. Although with a large group, this seminar is an interactive one. It is expected from participants that they prepare for the classes and contribute to the discussions, both outside, and during class hours.


REMARK MAY 2020: This description is based on previous years. In 2020, this course will be transformed into a completely online one. This will of course have major consequenses for the set-up of the course. Although the course objectives and topics will not change, the ‘logistics’ will, as may the assessment methods. Please keep up with the information in this prospectus for the latest updates.

The Dutch have created their own country, but how will the changing climate effect this crowded and low lying land? Who are the Dutch and what problems does society face when its population changes, in age or in ‘color’? Do these changes effect feelings of national identity (if we can decide what that is)? How do the Dutch react to those changes, and does the Dutch reaction differ from other countries’ reactions? These are a few questions that we will discuss.
While I am writing this prospectus (mid-May), the world is in the midst of the corona-crisis. If possible, this crisis will also be discussed, together with one of the other impacts of globalization: tourism.
Five Topical debates will be discussed, each in two sessions: a lecture and a discussion seminar. In preparation for each lecture, students study several chapters from the handbook Discovering the Dutch (check reading list below), and take online quizzes with multiple choice and short open questions (check assessment methods below). In the lectures, subjects will be deepened, broadened, and illustrated.
In the accompanying discussion seminars, we will examine the subject from different angles. Each subject will be studied both from the Dutch perspective and in an international context. For these seminars, students will collaborate in groups and with varied assignment. One of these assignments will serve as a graded midterm assignment.
In class, students report orally on their work in small groups, in which all the different perspectives will be heard. After the discussions, some groups will present their outcomes to the whole class. As participation of all students is essential for this part of this course, active participation is required.
The two final sessions are for reflection, watching a film, and for preparation for the final paper. In the final paper, students relate what they have seen of the Netherlands with what they have discussed with Dutch people and with what they have read during the course. In the last session, students will pitch their paper, have the opportunity to discuss what they struggle with, and get feedback from their peers.

11 Sept. |Introduction
18 & 25 Sept. |The Impact of the Changing Climate
2 & 9 Oct. |A Welfare State and an Ageing Population
16 Oct. |Politics, Populism and Immigration
23 Oct. |Midterm Break
30 Oct. |Politics, Populism and Immigration
6 Nov. & 13 Nov. |National Identity and Traditions in a Uniting Europe
20 & 27 Nov. | The Impact of Globalization
4 Dec. | 15-Minute Paper and film
11 Dec. Pitch your Paper

Course objectives

During this course, students:

  • will learn the backgrounds of several topical subjects in the Netherlands

  • will read, summarize and recapitulate academic texts and place them in the debate

  • will meet with people and places in the Netherlands and experience the subjects firsthand

  • will develop their intercultural communication skills by presenting and discussing with other international students

  • will work in international groups


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Seminars

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

  • 10% - Online quizzes with multiple choice and short answer questions (must be completed before the accompanying lecture – graded only with 0-5-10)

  • 30% - Midterm assignment: summarize and recapitulate a scholarly text

  • 60% - Final field trip, pitch and paper

  • 15-minute paper in week 12: reflection on learning in an international group (must be completed)

  • Attendance and active participation in the seminars is mandatory; absence or insufficient participation will have to be compensated with a written assignment.
    The final mark for this course is established by determining the weighted average.


Students who fail the course, will get the opportunity to revise their final paper.

Inspection and feedback

If necessary, quizzes will be discussed in the lectures; comments on papers will be available on line.
Unsatisfactory final papers will be discussed with the student.

Reading list

  • Emmeline Besamusca & Jaap Verheul [eds.], Discovering the Dutch. On Culture and Society of the Netherlands Revised and Enlarged Edition. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2014. From this book: Introduction and chapters 1 - 2 – 4 – 6 – 9 – 19 – 22 – 21 – 23 – 24 (120 pgs). Online access Leiden University Library.

  • 80 pages from: Hendrik Groen, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old. (This novel is available in many languages).

  • Leo Lucassen en Jan Lucassen (2015), The Strange Death of Dutch Tolerance: The Timing and Nature of the Pessimist Turn in the Dutch Migration Debate. The Journal of Modern History 87 (March 2015): 72– 101. (for the midterm assignment; available online)
    For the seminars: some additional materials (max. 50 pages in total) and assignments. These will be announced on Brightspace.


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.
If you experience difficulties with the registration in uSis, please, contact the [administration office}(

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


Teacher: Ms. L. Winkelmolen

Education administration office: Reuvensplaats